How deep on Reddit did you get trying to figure out who octopusslover8 is? Were you shared on a spreadsheet to theorize about the surprise songs in Taylor Swift’s upcoming set lists? Or was this more of an “I accidentally swiped onto the Apple News feed and now I know what ‘Gwynnocent’ means” kind of month? To each their own internet history.
See how you stack up with an overview of the internet’s biggest, weirdest moments from March, below, organized by points. The deeper you have to dive to find a story, the more points it earns you. Give yourself the corresponding amount of points for each entry you recognize, then check the bottom of the page to see how far down the digital rabbit hole you’ve fallen. This month, TikTok fights for its life, the internet takes a gay test, and the pope learns about streetwear.
Headline-making culture news or online moments that were so universal even someone who still uses a Hotmail account would be aware of them.
If TikTok is to be dead, so it be, so it is
he ate them up with that……… #tiktokceo #shouzichew #tiktokban♬ original sound - WhileImToska
Have you ever thought to yourself, I wonder if members of Congress know what Wi-Fi is? No, because that should be a basic requirement for anyone participating in a congressional hearing about a social-media app. But alas, on March 23, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew patiently spelled out that and more during a five-hour hearing with legislators contemplating a ban of the app over its Chinese parent company, ByteDance. “Does TikTok access the home Wi-Fi network?” asked Representative Richard Hudson during one of the more baffling exchanges. “I’m sorry, I may not understand the question,” Chew responded.
The relationship between Congress and social media has been strained ever since Facebook wouldn’t “commit to ending finsta.” TikTok users reacted to the possibility of a ban by using various coping skills such as crying, begging people to follow them on Instagram, and making something Congress completely understands and definitely doesn’t think is a way TikTok is spying on users through household items: fancams.
Why it’s a 1: If someone doesn’t already have Crazy Rich Asians actor and fellow Singaporean Pierre Png on the phone to play Chew in TikTok’s inevitable Social Network–style movie, I’ll happily accept a generous fee for coming up with the idea first.
Selena speaks out
After that eyebrow drama in February, Selena Gomez turned off her phone (i.e., took a social-media break) before logging back on to address the drama with her ex-boyfriend’s wife. (Gomez’s note suspiciously came after a video surfaced of Hailey Bieber singing “Kill Bill” with Justin Bieber at a SZA show in Los Angeles. Or hey, maybe the timing is a coincidence …) “Hailey Bieber reached out to me and let me know that she has been receiving death threats and such hateful negativity,” the singer wrote on her Instagram Story. “This isn’t what I stand for. No one should have to experience hate or bullying. I’ve always advocated for kindness and really want this all to stop.”
Bieber shared her own message on the socials, thanking Gomez for speaking out and sharing that the two had been “discussing the last few weeks how to move past this ongoing narrative.”
But perhaps the biggest olive branch came in the form of a follow: The two are now mutuals on Instagram, and in a modern-day Treaty of Versailles, Bieber liked a recent photo of Gomez in a bikini.
Why it’s a 1: Because we talked about it last month, and Gomez is the most followed person on Instagram.
You can bring these stories up at the family dinner table, but they would require a backstory and a minor glossary of terms before everyone’s on the same page.
No, Gwyneth Paltrow was not on trial for that podcast clip where she says her daily meals consist of coffee, bone broth, and vegetables, but for another equally rich white-woman problem: skiing. Specifically, the “half a day of skiing” she was left with after, she claims, 76-year-old Terry Sanderson crashed into her on a Utah ski slope in 2016. This all started when Sanderson sued the actress first, for — he says — crashing into him and causing detrimental injuries like his being unable to enjoy wine tastings anymore (FWIW, I’d sue someone if I couldn’t enjoy wine anymore too).
Paltrow retaliated with a $1 countersuit and served sartorial serve after serve over the course of the eight-day trial. Thanks to her outfits, her instantly viral sound bites, and Sanderson’s lawyer, who also seemed to be on Team Goop, the court of public opinion declared Paltrow the unquestioned winner. On Thursday, March 30, a Utah civil court followed suit. It’s nice to see the good guys (a millionaire actress who spouts questionable health advice) win and the bad guys (a retired optometrist) lose for once!
Why it’s a 2: The news of Paltrow’s victory dropped at the same time as the news of Donald Trump’s indictment — and my Twitter feed cared about the former way more.
That gong you hear is the sound of another tech titan stepping down. Emmett Shear announced on March 2 that he is resigning as the chief executive of Twitch after 16 years, having overseen its evolution from Justin.tv to a full-fledged livestreaming site purchased by Amazon for $1 billion. While Twitch has faced the same issues as many other social-media platforms — such as complaints about moderation and harassment — it has been less mainstream than more traditional platforms like YouTube and therefore seemingly less volatile.
Why it’s a 2: With YouTube’s longtime CEO Susan Wojcicki stepping down last month, TikTok’s CEO battling a ban at the hands of Congress, and Elon Musk doing whatever it is he’s doing to Twitter, this is yet another sign of uncertainty in Silicon Valley. But it’s only really time to worry if people start getting back on Facebook.
A 16-year-old, a shallot, and a failed attempt to charter a helicopter might just have saved nepo babies from cancellation.
“Make a vodka-sauce pasta with me because I’m grounded because I tried to charter a helicopter from New York to Maryland on my dad’s credit card because I wanted to have dinner with my camp friend,” says Romy Mars, daughter of director Sofia Coppola and musician Thomas Mars, going rogue on TikTok on March 21 by posting a now-deleted video of her attempt to cook the pasta. The entire video is a cinematic masterpiece more gripping than The Bling Ring, with twists, turns, cameos, and the coining of the word fiasca. Several things happen in the TikTokshort film: First, Romy says she had to Google the difference between garlic and onion. Second, she shares that her parents’ biggest rule for her is no public social media because they don’t want her to be a “nepotism kid.” Third, she introduces her nanny’s boyfriend who, it turns out, has a Ph.D. in ancient philosophy and a master’s in “getting a 16-year-old an onion after she accidentally chopped up a shallot.”
Why it’s a 2: Everyone’s loving it. The viral video made its way to a New York Times write-up for which an assistant professor of digital media was recruited to explain why “there was so much public interest” in Romy’s masterpiece. Has a TikTok that technically no longer exists ever been this popular?
Insular online-community news events or temporary main characters who get plucked by the algorithm and placed all over our feeds for a few days before receding back into the shadows. Think: West Elm Caleb.
PUSSY PSA! PUSSY PSA!
Replying to @user2035752864190♬ original sound - Jake Shane
It’s one thing to read about history, but it’s another to be there when the Founding Fathers realized John Hancock’s signature took up half a page on the Declaration of Independence. Jake Shane, better known by his TikTok username @octopusslover8, catapulted himself to 1.5 million TikTok followers by imagining moments like these and performing increasingly niche impressions from “paying the bill at the Last Supper” to “Diet Coke finding out about Coke Zero.”
But as eagle-eyed viewers realized, Shane’s first internet moment came in a vlog posted by none other than Miss University of Southern California Olivia Jade, when she was famously attending the University of Southern California. He has yet to address the connection, but maybe he’ll do so in an impression of the rowing machines in the staged admissions photos.
Why it’s a 3: This was the kind of rapid TikTok blowup we haven’t seen since deep in the pandemic when everyone was stuck on their phones. Now Shane is making videos with artists like Rina Sawayama and getting duetted by Nick Jonas and Lea Michele. Because this is all still happening entirely on TikTok, this is a 3, but I’ll be ready to amend it the moment he snags his first awards-show invite or appearance on The Drew Barrymore Show.
Making majorette moves
i miss dancing so i’m fina start dancing for y’all f it 😂 #fyp ik im rustyyy #majorette♬ Earned It x J.K. Mac - Never Be Jokin’
In the words of TikTok creator Khalil Greene, “Welcome to another episode of ‘How Everything on This App Originated With Black People.’” In a March 10 video, Greene, who calls himself a TikTok historian, unpacks the origin of a popular TikTok dance that can be traced back to majorette dancer and TikTokker Jordyn Williams. Williams created the “No Love” challenge back in November 2022, going viral across the app to the point of losing cultural context as non-Black creators co-opted the choreography.
As Greene explains to the class (his 599K followers), majorette dancing came to the U.S in the 1960s and became a staple of historically Black colleges and universities. The distinct choreography typically accompanies marching bands during sports halftime shows and features bold costumes and baton-twirling. He points out that some people erroneously attribute the choreography to K-pop while white creators are participating without an awareness of its cultural significance — and judging by most of the videos, a sense of rhythm.
Why it’s a 3: While the app has evolved into much more than a dance platform, the issues of cultural ownership and the mistreatment of Black creators remain front and center. It’s like no one learned anything from Addison Rae performing the renegade on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.
The r/midjourney sub-Reddit is a place for creators to share art they made with the titular platform’s artificial-intelligence program, but on Friday, March 24, it became ground zero for the great papal hoax of 2023. An AI-created image shared by u/trippy_art_special appeared to show Pope Francis wearing a large white puffer jacket and bejeweled cross pendant. I mean this in the most pious way: He looked as fire as a pope who isn’t The Young Pope could. However, the image made its way onto Twitter, where, removed from the context of Midjourney, users thought the pope really had stepped out in some kind of Moncler x the Vatican fit. Even constantly online celebs like Chrissy Teigen were duped.
Why it’s a 3: Drippy Pope is one of the first truly widespread instances of AI misinformation. There has been a lot of hand-wringing about the consequences of tools like Midjourney and the AI text generator ChatGPT, but I think that was about, like, computers becoming sentient — not the Pope looking sick as hell.
An article written by New York University junior Stacia Datskovska titled “I’m an NYU student who studied abroad in Florence. I hated every aspect of my semester abroad” had all the *chef’s kiss* hallmarks of Twitter rage-bait. “Pressure to travel” and “hostile Italians” are just two of the reasons Datskovska cited for her disappointing trip. It was (1) a tone-deaf opinion being (2) loudly voiced by (3) someone too young to know what she was getting into. However, being insufferable on your year abroad is kind of part of the whole experience. Getting reamed out by Twitter? Not so much, something some users of the platform felt Datskovska’s editors should have protected her from.
Why it’s a 3: Getting mad about an article on Twitter feels nostalgic at this point, and 3,000 quote-tweeters were willing to indulge for old times’ sake.
Stan recognize stan
On March 1, Billboard’s Women in Music Awards honored Lana Del Rey with the Visionary Award — and she, in turn, took the opportunity to honor her favorite vloggers. After meeting them earlier in the evening, she thanked YouTube creators Remi Cruz, Oli Abbas, and Alisha Marie for getting her “through COVID.” Their preshow run-in was posted by Alisha, who cobbled together video from all three creators who captured the mutual stanning.
“I’ve watched you for four years,” Del Rey tells Oli, explaining that when she ran out of Remi’s videos, she started on Alisha’s. “So I pretty much know everything about you.”
Why it’s a 3: This is the 2023 version of “celebrities — they’re just like us!” Except that “us” is just the people who spent all their free time on the internet during the pandemic.
Requires a late-night deep dive into the drama going down at a midwestern sorority you have no connection to or an uprising in the Chris Evans fandom — research that will ruin your recommended content for weeks.
Replying to @newbornbabygiraffe Dani Austin is attempting to steal de-influenced from the community that created it for her own profit and self-preservation. If that doesn’t scream #fastfashionmeangirl I don’t know what to tell you. This doesnt even begin to scratch the surface regarding LTK (and other affiliate networks like it) that act as digital MLMs unbeknownst to most influencers using it. For context, I used to work for a software company that sold the technology affiliate networks are built on. Most LTK (or Amazon) affiliates don’t have any real shot of moving into a place where you are making any type of living unless you were an early adopter or have connections. Mainly because there are mechanisms within the software and the sales cycle itself that will attribute sales to the same influencers over and over again vs. the original influencers that introduced the product or prompted their audience to download the LTK app (let me know if you want more videos on this). Meaning that the masses are doing the actual work and the top .05%-1% are profiting by the millions. See below video titled: ‘The Customer Influencer Archetype’. While continuing to promote their success as an individual accomplishment. It’s fascinating and I promise you that I don’t wish for any person’s or businesses demise. I am here to educate, share my knowledge and facilitate ethical business models within the creator community. We consistently turn a blind eye to bad behavior by saying ‘business is just business’, but unfortunately those actions don’t occur in a vacuum and they effect many, many other people. And in this case, Dani Austin™️ is purposefully stealing the term ‘de-influenced’ to shift attention away from it’s intended use and silence the slow fashion movement. You really can’t make this stuff up. 🤷🏼♀️ #deinfluencingbeauty #deinfluencinginfluencing #deinfluenced #slowfashiontiktok Origin of De-Influencing —> @the_rogue_essentials The Customer/Influencer Archetype —> @the_rogue_essentials♬ original sound - The Rogue Essentials
An influencer starting a podcast about de-influencing has very “we’re all trying to find the guy who did this” energy. Longtime creator Dani Austin has 1.7M Instagram followers and a hair-care brand but recently launched (and is attempting to trademark) a podcast called De-Influenced, which gives “an unfiltered look into life as a mom, founder, influencer, and entrepreneur.”
TikTok user @the_rogue_essentials, one of the pioneers of the de-influencing movement on social media, was quick to call out this irony. The idea of creators “de-influencing” followers was to call out the viral items everyone’s talking about that you don’t actually need (like the $42 Stanley Cup tumbler) or that don’t live up to their hype (like, to pick a random example, the $42 Stanley Cup tumbler). It’s not about giving influencers another thing to monetize and sell us — which Austin appears to be doing by co-opting the term for her podcast and trying to trademark it for merch.
The backlash against Austin prompted her former employee Cassidy Wilson to come forward in a video accusing her of fostering a toxic work environment. Austin shared in her own video that the problem was Wilson’s secretly working for other businesses.
Austin did not respond to a request for comment, but a friend close to the situation echoed her side of the story. “There were some issues with Cassidy’s performance where maybe she had potentially been working for other brands when she was supposed to be working for Dani,” the source said. “When you have a boss who gives someone hard feedback and all of a sudden the great work environment goes to toxic, it’s kind of like b.s.”
Why it’s a 4: A sustainability movement being championed by a collective of users getting trademarked so an influencer can sell it as merch is almost too on the nose — yet so unsurprising that the controversy failed to make any impact outside the community and instead spiraled into an even more niche drama.
Anna Marie Tendler’s bad blood
@annamtendler deleted video. Apparently Taylor using a dining room set on tour is the reason she can’t sell her 5000 art #tswifttok #greenscreen #greenscreenvideo♬ original sound - Deleted Videos
It’s wise not to play with Swifties during even the most dormant of times but certainly not during the Eras tour. Taylor Swift kicked off her first concert tour in five years in Arizona on March 17, and that night artist Anna Marie Tendler, noted winner of the Petunia custody battle in her 2021 split from John Mulaney, made what she later clarified was a joking video accusing Swift of copying her work. Ahead of her performance of “tolerate it,” Swift putters around a dining table, which I guess looks just as much like Tendler’s “Dinner in March” as any other configuration of a table and chairs.
“Uh, Taylor, my girl, people who designed Taylor’s tour? This ‘tolerate it’ setup looks strikingly like one of my photographs in tone and in aesthetics,” Tendler says in the now-deleted video.
Tendler was swiftly (haha) eviscerated by fans in the comments and in videos that reuploaded the clip after Tendler deleted it. She later commented on one of those reuploads, “Hi! This was meant to be a joke. Most of my videos are jokes or satire! When I realized it wasn’t landing as a joke I deleted it. Didn’t mean offense.”
Tendler then went private and has yet to return to the platform.
Why it’s a 4: This was a blip in the broad scheme of SwiftTok, which has already moved on to debating concert etiquette and the ethics of buying tickets for multiple nights of the tour, but it was particularly intense for Tendler. I hope she doesn’t let this keep her away forever because we need more sheet-folding-tutorial content like this.
An incident so layered — one requiring a Fandom.com-level understanding of multiple niche communities and their lore — that it’s as if you’re speaking a different language when explaining it. For that reason, you likely have no one to talk to about it.
I’m not sure whom I love more: Jasper, the raspy, deranged, and mutilated Anna from Frozen doll, or the people who dress up as Jasper with uncanny accuracy. But being Jasper is less about what you look like — though a face smeared with eyeliner and lipstick and hair parted into vertical crispy tufts wouldn’t hurt — but the feral, manic, and mildly violent energy you bring to your everyday life. You take inspiration from the joie de vivre he has singing songs, going to Walmart, and baking banana bread from an ominous-looking mix. Whatever path brought you to Jasper, who, don’t forget, is 22 and uses both he/him and she/her pronouns, you’re now on an elite side of TikTok, one that will have Mario Winans’s “I Don’t Wanna Know (Jasper’s Version)” stuck in your head every time you’re trying to focus on something normal.
Why it’s a 5: JasperTok has the two crucial characteristics of a 5: deeply important to me and impossible to explain. YOu WiLl NeVEr FinD aNOtHer gIRl LikE mE!
This is a gay test
On the dusty desktop computer that still lurks somewhere in a dark basement, every image is a gay test. On Twitter, however, it’s heavily pixelated images of gay icons like Lady Gaga, memes like Dakota Johnson on Ellen, and robots like M3GAN that only those truly immersed in the chaotic carnival that is Gay Twitter can identify. Know what this image is? You’re gay. This one? Also gay. But this one? Well, probably gay, but also you just have great taste in films.
Why it’s a 5: The trend took over the app for the week of March 20, which means we have another few days before Elon Musk discovers it, tweets about it, and forever ruins it.
So how online were you this month?
0–15 Points: Kinda plugged in.
March had too much going on in the worlds of basketball and politics for you to really care about the inner machinations of the internet, but you are one of Selena Gomez’s 405 million Instagram followers. You know about the potential TikTok ban, but you’re primarily a Reels user anyways.
15–30 Points: Above-averagely online.
This was a fun month, all things considered: Fiasca is now a regular part of your vocabulary, and when you hear “PUSSY PSA!” you stand to attention. But, like Chrissy Teigen, you fell for the AI pope image.
30–41 Points: Irreparably internet damaged.
Another month, another opportunity to alienate your co-workers by taking a leap on a TikTok reference that fell flat over Zoom — but as far as you’re concerned, JasperTok is the only side of TikTok.