extremely online

Serving Memes in a God-Honoring Way: How Online Were You in May?

Ever wondered what the rest of that fox tattoo looks like?

Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Videos: culturework, darkfluffyboy, running_mom_of_boys, yafavv.mandaa

Have you marked yourself “safe” from the Matty Healy discourse? The Twitter threads and New Yorker profiles about Taylor Swift’s rumored boyfriend show no signs of slowing down, and nothing from a writers strike down to a bunch of George Washington University students allegedly eating mice could successfully distract the news cycle. Luckily, the truly online can hold space for multiple internet spectacles, and depending on just how online you were in May, this may have been an especially crowded month.

We scraped the corners of the internet to collect the past month’s wonderful and weirdest crumbs and organized them by points depending on how deep in an endless scroll you had to be to see them. So make yourself comfy on the $8,000 sofa you found on the street (provided it doesn’t have bed bugs) and get ready to do some math: For every moment you recognize, you claim the corresponding number of points. Add them all up at the end, and see where you fall on May’s meltdown scale.


+1 Point

Headline-making culture news so universal that even someone who still uses a Hotmail account would be aware of them.


Striking out

The first week of May, you probably learned that every funny person you follow is a writer. At 12:01 a.m on May 2, the Writers Guild of America called for a strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers over ongoing issues like streaming-service royalties, mandatory staffing and employment guarantees, and the use of artificial intelligence in scriptwriting. Trading writers’ rooms for picket lines, those striking made liberal use of memes on their signs and used social media to organize the gatherings, a notable change from 2007–8’s 100-day writers strike. Over on TikTok, Pete Davidson and Imagine Dragons (sure, why not?) are captured lending their support.

Why it’s a 1: Because everyone knows that writers are the backbone of every single piece of entertainment. Right?



On May 3, British tabloid The Sun reported that Taylor Swift is dating controversial lead singer of the 1975 Matty Healy. Having learned their media-literacy lesson last month, Swifties identified the outlet as an unreliable source and shook off the allegations. Until the two appeared to be mouthing love notes to each other from their respective concerts, and Entertainment Tonight — the same outlet that credibly broke the news of Swift and Joe Alwyn’s split — confirmed the reports. Swifties have now mobilized with such ferocity that it makes the Ticketmaster controversy look like a funny misunderstanding. Healy — who is known by the 1975 fans as “Ratty” — has a history of “edgy” remarks and stunts that often cross a line, including laughing at racist jokes about Ice Spice on a podcast and appearing to do a Nazi salute in reference to Kanye West onstage, and Swifties fans turning on their favorite artist. They’re writing open letters on Twitter calling for the singer to disavow her (new) British boyfriend or, in other cases, penning 16-part screeds in defense of their decision to still attend the Eras tour. Swift, seemingly in her chaos era, threw fuel on the fire by dropping a collaboration with, yes, Ice Spice.

Why it’s a 1: Swift’s apparent situationship has had a ripple effect that has divided her entire fan base and created a discourse cycle of think pieces and coordinated online backlash that won’t be slowing down any time soon. At this point, you open Twitter or TikTok at your own risk.


+2 Points

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.


A dish best served cunt

Every few weeks, someone on the internet learns a new word or turn of phrase from a corner of pop culture — often queer or Black culture — and absolutely runs it into the ground. See: “It’s giving.” In May, it was the prompt tweet “How do you serve cunt in an [insert adjective here] way?” The trend first started on April 16, when @Sunfl0wersailor tweeted, “How do you serve cunt in a god honoring way,” inspired by a (deleted but thankfully preserved) video from ultraconservative Christian lifestyle channel Girl Defined titled “How to Wear Makeup in a God Honoring Way.” The post got more than 74.5 million views, but it wasn’t until a few weeks later that Twitter turned it into a larger trend (FWIW, this is the answer). Riffs ranged from “How do you serve cunt in a goofy silly way” to “How do you serve cunt in a way that creates value for shareholders?

Why it’s a 2: “Serving cunt” was unfortunately laid to rest right next to “Padam Padam,” who were both funny one time before overstaying their welcome by becoming every other tweet in the feed. RIP (the “P” stands for “pussy”).



Not since the Ratatouille musical has TikTok banded together in such a unified display of creativity around a cartoon. In late April, @darkfluffyboy posted a clip from the 2012 animated film The Lorax with the caption “Why tf he dance like that.” “He” is a small boy character wearing salmon shorts, and “like that” is — and I only feel comfortable saying this because he’s a cartoon — butt-first. Like, throwing his ass all the way back. The move was subsequently mimicked by a number of creators — some putting together recreations of every character in the scene.

Why it’s a 2: This trend sits squarely in the middle of the Venn diagram of “stupid” and “easily replicable,” making it catnip to the broader internet public, and now the Swifties have co-opted it.


+3 Points

Insular community breakouts 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.


Sofa, so good

Couch guy can finally breathe a sigh of relief, because there’s a new piece of furniture causing problems. On May 20, TikTok’s @yafavvmandaa posted a video of an allegedly $8,000 couch — it looks like the BUBBLE 2 curved sofa from Roche Bobois — she claimed to have found on the street in New York City. She documented her family cleaning it within an inch of its life at her dad’s workspace before bringing it to its new home in her apartment. The video racked up 58 million views on TikTok and 109 million views on Twitter, not because it was a lucky find but because viewers were convinced the couch must be infested with bed bugs or suffering from some other kind of disgusting ailment that resulted in it being dumped on the street. But this is NYC, where the streets are our trash can and couches are dumped simply because they are too heavy to find a better solution. While @yafavvmandaa clarified that the couch sat in her father’s workshop for two weeks without bed bugs appearing and emphasized just how deeply it was cleaned, Twitter had already taken the meme and ran with it. Not even the emergence of a second weird-looking couch could stop them.

Why it’s a 3: In the words of Twitter’s @itslynxie, “Legit I touch grass for 2 seconds and all of a sudden the world is in shambles over a couch.” Still, 170 million views is more than the number of people who voted in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.


Tarte trips up


3 year check-in! @tarte cosmetics @Maureen Kelly fyp

♬ original sound - culturework

These days, it feels like Tarte comes up more in the context of influencer trips than it does at the makeup counter. The brand appears to be distracting customers from its infamously noninclusive Shape Tape foundation gaffe by taking influencers on swanky trips to places like Dubai and Prince’s estate on Turks and Caicos, but the strategy backfired the first week of May, when two different creators of color accused the brand of shafting them on these trips due to their race. On May 2, Cynthia Victor alleged that despite having a larger following than other creators on the “Tarte Island” trip to Turks and Caicos, she was given a smaller room and booked on a shorter trip than others who got to stay for multiple “seasons” while some creators were shuffled in and out. On May 4, Bria Jones said in a now-deleted video that she was similarly misled when she was invited to Miami for the Formula 1 Grand Prix but not during the dates of the main race, which other creators on the trip had been invited to. “I will be damned, as a Black creator, if I accept anything other than equal treatment on these trips,” she said.

Jones ultimately bowed out of the trip, but a new wave of discourse ensued when two other Black creators, Fannita and SpecsandBlazers, announced their plans to go on the trip and were dismissive toward people who asked them about their thoughts on attending this trip given Jones’s experience. The lack of solidarity, plus instances in videos that could be interpreted as shade toward Jones, were ultimately not worth some free lip gloss.

In response to Victor and Jones’s videos, CEO Maureen Kelly posted a video she later deleted in which she dodged the conversation surrounding race. It wasn’t until @CultureWork, a TikTokker with 60,000 followers who prefers to remain anonymous, made her own video pointing this out along with Tarte’s history of letting down their Black customers, that the conversation shifted away from the influencers and toward the history of Tarte itself. @CultureWork pressed the company and its CEO to share an update on the pledges they’d made during the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020 and revealed that she was blocked on TikTok by both the brand account and Kelly herself after her initial TikTok.

Why it’s a 3: This isn’t just about drama around an influencer trip gone wrong but Tarte’s apparent pattern of overlooking its Black customers. Tarte’s reckoning with its lack of diversity has been a long time coming, and as we reach the three-year anniversary of the 2020 Black Lives Matter marches, we’re starting to clearly see which companies’ pledges to equity and inclusion never moved beyond an Instagram post.


+4 Points

Requires a late-night deep dive into drama going down at a midwestern sorority or an uprising in the Chris Evans fandom — research that will ruin your recommended content for weeks.


Bigolas Dickolas’s book pickolas

Normally, if any type of publishing news is trending on Twitter, that’s a sign to run far in the other direction — lest you get hit with any strays from the YA authors arguing about their Goodreads ratings. But in the case of This Is How You Lose the Time War, a 2019 science-fiction novel by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, Twitter wrought a rare moment of celebration and community, and it’s all thanks to “bigolas dickolas.”

“read this. DO NOT look up anything about it. just read it,” @maskofbun, a fan account for Japanese series Trigun with the display name “bigolas dickolas woIfwood,” tweeted on May 7. The tweet was accompanied by a picture of the sci-fi novel’s cover and racked up more than 14,000 retweets from people seconding the recommendation but mostly those marveling at the hilarity of “bigolas dickolas” — presumably the cousin of Monty Python’s Biggus Dickus — and their sudden chokehold on the publishing industry. Now, at least one executive at Simon & Schuster has had to say “bigolas dickolas,” and I think that’s beautiful.

Why it’s a 4: The publishing world, especially Book Twitter, is a niche community (unless there’s a controversy going on), but this wholesome success story broke through to a slightly wider audience. “I do not understand what is happening but I am incomprehensibly grateful to bigolas dickolas,” El-Mohtar tweeted the day after the initial tweet, as the book shot up the Amazon Best Seller list, eventually reaching the No. 3 slot. Across the pond, a Waterstones bookstore in Glasgow even added the tweet as a blurb.


Tattoo tattles

The siren call of a small business engaging in questionable business practices is too tempting for TikTok to ignore. This month, it’s a tattoo artist a customer believes scammed her out of more than $2,000. A three-part video from @cmonteith posted on May 9 details her experience commissioning a fox tattoo, for which she was required to pay thousands in deposit and consultation fees before ever seeing a sketch. Once the sketch materialized, it was hastily drawn and in no way matched the reference photos the customer had shared. That was no skin off the artist’s back — she’ll happily fix it for another couple thousand dollars!

Unsurprisingly, @cmonteith declined that offer and, when it was apparent the artist had no intention of refunding her any money, took her grievances to TikTok. The egregiousness of the pricing, and the tone of the emails shared between @cmonteith and the artist, had people frothing in the comments and even brought other unhappy patrons of this same artist out of the woodwork. Ri McCue, one of those unhappy customers, named the establishment as Lucid Tattoos in Cambridge, Ontario, and claimed the artist had shared a photo of her ID as an attempt to get her banned from fellow studios, because if there’s one way to disabuse people of the notion that you have predatory business practices, it’s to be even more predatory online.

Why it’s a 4: The fierce response to the videos eventually spilled out of TikTok and, according to @cmonteith, onto reviews of the shop itself. She later hopped back on TikTok to request that sleuths refrain from commenting the name in the comments and leaving negative Google reviews. It swept the tattoo community broadly enough that artist Matt Vaught is flying her out to receive a free tattoo and end the saga on a positive note.


+5 Points

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.


Takeaway turmoil

Some of you didn’t listen to the entirety of Lily Allen’s 2009 album It’s Not Me, It’s You, and it shows. If you did, the concept of people in the U.K. referring to takeout food as getting “a Chinese” or “an Indian” wouldn’t be as shocking as it was to TikTok, where a video from a creator named Soogia kicked off a week of debate about the cultural differences. What started with lighthearted marveling at the difference between American Chinese food and British Chinese food (and the latter’s liberal use of curry sauce) escalated to accusations of racism with some understandable chafing at the colloquialism of “a Chinese.” While Asian creators in the U.K. were quick to step in and clarify how and why the saying occurred — it’s a shortened version of the full phrase “a Chinese takeaway” — the entire thing was discoursed into the ground, crashing and burning somewhere between this impressive Wikipedia deep dive and “the English are cannibals who ate my Irish family.

Why it’s a 5: As heated as things got on TikTok, the “controversy” never made it off the app. This whole thing could have been prevented by the creators spending five minutes outside or having just one roommate walk in while they were filming to ask, “What are you doing?”


Rodent rituals


#storytime about how I found out my friends were having “Roommate Bonding Nights” where they would eat mice together

♬ original sound - alexis

If I had a nickel for every time someone came on TikTok to talk about a group of students at George Washington University who allegedly ate mice, I’d have two nickels — which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that it happened twice. In a video, @ahecksis2 shared the story of a friend who would frequently stop by the pet store to get mice “for her snake.” But when she finally visits this friend’s home, she discovers that not only did this friend not have a pet snake but the mice were instead purchased for the friend and her roommates to eat during regular “bonding nights.” The too-crazy-to-believe tale was, in fact, later allegedly corroborated in a now-deleted TikTok by another user, @lealearambles. The initial poster said that the two got in touch and confirmed they were talking about the same people. Or sharing the same delusion.

Why it’s a 5: Like the void behind your couch or the tissue when you blow your nose, this is one of those unsettling things that needs to stay unseen, hidden and buried out of consciousness — where it belongs.

So how online were you this month?

0–15 POINTS: Kinda plugged in.
This was the month you learned there is a band called the 1975, and now you’re really mad at them but not enough to give up your Eras-tour floor seats. You vaguely heard about the Tarte drama, but only because @briannachickenfry was on one of the trips. You finally came across last month’s cake drama — but on Instagram Reels.

16–30 POINTS: Above-average online. 
You saw the couch video on Twitter and sent it to your friend, because why aren’t you ever lucky enough to come across discarded furniture that stained and disgusting? And while you were savvy enough to suss out the culprit behind the viral tattoo video, you were wise enough to know not to leave a fake Google review. The “P for Papas, it’s a Papas party” TikTok sound keeps getting stuck in your head.

31–40 POINTS: Irreparably internet-damaged.
You were part of putting together the open Twitter letter to Taylor Swift and now listen to “All Too Well (Scooter’s Version)” to make a point. This is How You Lose the Time War is next up on your TBR pile — as soon as you finish recreating the dance of every single character in the viral Lorax scene. You’re going to post it on TikTok as a distraction from your previous video accusing the English of eating your ancestors.

How Online Were You in May?