The world in which we live is a very weird place. Most people have at least one social media account, if not several. Every day people are posting pictures, sharing thoughts, and checking in. This is the most connected that society has ever been. Luckily, for the most part, unless you’re Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift, your tweets, pictures and statuses will only be seen by a handful of your friends. Most of the time, pictures and posts that go viral are those shared by celebrities. Remember when Kim Kardashian cut Nori out of a selfie she posted? If anyone else did that, it would go mostly unnoticed, but Kim’s millions of followers saw this and the selfie went viral.
Every once in a while, someone completely normal goes viral for unknown reasons. Whether it is a YouTube video of a hilarious baby, an offensive tweet or a post about a dress, the Internet gods look down upon a normal person and let the Internet craze take over. There is honestly no real way to tell when something will go viral or what can make something go viral. There is no algorithm. It is completely random. It can be something as random as a kid named Alex working at Target.
With that said, when normal people go viral, they can reap the benefits, making hundreds of thousands of dollars, or it can destroy their lives. Here are 10 completely normal people who went viral:
10. Jonathan Esponda – The Dancing Miami Marlins Fan
Jonathan Esponda’s hips made him a viral superstar. A year after Esponda busted a move at a Marlins game, the clip was included in some outtakes on the Jumbotron, and after that, the rest is Internet history. From there, somebody posted a Vine video and the video took off. Jonathan Esponda credits his parents with teaching him how to dance. After the video went viral, the eight-year-old got to throw the first pitch before a Marlins vs. Phillies game.
9. Kimberly Wilkins – “Ain’t nobody got time for that”
After escaping a fire in her apartment complex in 2012, Kimberly Wilkins, also known as “Sweet Brown,” gave an interview to a local news station. The interview seemed like business as usual, with Wilkins recounting the events of her escape from the burning building. “Sweet Brown’s” 42 second video, which spurred the catchphrase “Ain’t nobody got time for that,” went viral with 1 million views in only 2 days. Not only was she a guest on The View, she also had a cameo in A Maeda Christmas. But it wasn’t entirely a happy ending for the viral superstar Wilkins. She went on to sue Apple for releasing a song called “I Got Bronchitis,” which featured many of her phrases from the news interview.
8. Mason – Skeptical Baby Meme
In 2011, Dave and Rhianon took their son, Mason, to the Museum of Natural Sciences. Neither of them knew that a picture they took of their son that day would turn into one of the most famous memes ever. After Dave posted his son’s picture on a Reddit thread, Mason turned into the skeptical baby meme. The meme has many different forms, but they all follow the same basic structure. The phrase usually begins with “You mean to tell me,” then concludes with a baby-like realization.
7. David DeVore – “Is this real life?”
After seven-year-old David DeVore had dental surgery to remove an extra tooth, the camera started rolling. The extra tooth was caused by Hyperdontia, a hereditary condition. As he sat in the backseat on the way home, still out of it from the anesthesia, he asked, “Is this real life?” (among many other hilarious questions). The two-minute video gained over 3 million views in the first three days on YouTube. During the first year the video was uploaded, the DeVore family made $150,000. Who knew Hyperdontia could be so entertaining and lucrative?
6. Caitlyn McNeill – The Gold/White or Black/Blue Dress
Though her dress may be more recognizable than she is, Caitlyn McNeill is the one that posted it. When the 21-year-old, who plays guitar in a Scottish band, posted a picture of this dress on her Tumblr, things spiralled out of control. The dress is, of course, the dress that sparked the black and blue or white and gold debate. Celebrities like Swift, Kardashian, and Mindy Kaling even joined in on the fun. Following the frenzy, there were several articles published that explained the scientific reason why some people saw the dress as blue and black, and others saw the dress as gold and white.
5. Sam Griner – Success Kid Meme
There’s a good chance you’ve seen this meme of a baby with a determined face and a clenched fist. This meme has been everywhere and was even used by the White House at one time. It all started with a photo shoot on the beach. According to Laney Griner, the photo was snapped while Sam Griner was trying to eat sand. She posted the photo on Flickr and suddenly, her child became one of the most popular memes of all time. The story doesn’t end there. In 2015, the family used the fame of the “success kid meme” to raise $100,000 on GoFundMe for Sam’s father Justin Griner to have a kidney transplant.
4. Antoine Dodson – “So, y’all need to hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband…”
In 2010, Antoine Dodson’s sister was the victim of an attempted rape. Antoine Dodson gave an interview to a local news station about the incident, during which he said, “He’s climbin’ in your windows, he’s snatchin’ your people up, tryin’ to rape ‘em. So y’all need to hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband cause they’re rapin’ everybody out here.” After his interview went viral, The Gregory Brothers released a song entitled “Bed Intruder Song” which featured an autotuned version of this infamous quote. This video became the most popular video on YouTube in 2010.
3. Charlie Davies-Carr and Harry Davies-Carr – “Charlie bit my finger!”
Who would have thought that a video of a toddler’s reaction to his baby brother biting his finger would become one of the most watched videos on YouTube of all time? Probably absolutely nobody. In the 55-second clip, Harry puts his finger in baby brother Charlie’s mouth, then, you guess it, Charlie bites his finger. The video was uploaded so family members in the United States could see the two boys growing up, but it exploded. It is the 25th most watched video on YouTube with over 830 million views, and it was named number one on Time’s list of YouTube’s 50 Greatest Viral Videos.
2. Justine Sacco – “Just kidding. I’m white!”
Not everyone’s story of going viral is a happy story. The story of Justine Sacco, a normal woman who went viral, is one of the darker stories of social media. In 2013, Justine Sacco, 30 years old at the time, was the senior director of corporate communications at IAC. That was about to change. (Actually, her entire life was about to change.)
Before a flight, she tweeted: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” While she was on her 11-hour flight, the tweet went viral. There was even a trending hashtag of #HasJustineLanded, all the while she was peacefully unaware on her plane.
Her employer tweeted: “This is an outrageous, offensive comment. Employee in question currently unreachable on an intl flight.” Suffice to say that when Justine Sacco landed, she was no longer employed and was the most hated woman on Twitter. Justine received death threats and threats for her family’s safety. It was extremely difficult for her to find another job in PR because her life was basically a PR nightmare.
After the outrage died down, Justine found a new job in communications, though she won’t disclose where, stating that “Anything that puts the spotlight on me is a negative.”
1. Alex Lee – #AlexFromTarget
Alex from Target may be the most random of all the normal people who have gone viral. At the time, Alex was a 16-year-old kid living in Frisco, Texas, and he just so happened to work at Target. That was it. Being that Alex is attractive, someone snapped a photo of him while he was putting items in a bag. A teenage girl from Britain found the photo on Tumblr and posted it to her Twitter account with a caption “YOOOOOOOOOOO.”
For whatever reason, the photo of Alex kept being shared and the hashtag #AlexFromTarget took off and became a sensation. His new found fame even bought him an appearance on Ellen. Alex continued to work at Target but was transferred to the stockroom, as his presence on the floor would cause frenzies in the store. Following the #AlexFromTarget craze, he gained 788,000 followers on Twitter and 1.9 million followers on Instagram. Now that he has this platform, he is trying his hand in the entertainment business.