This week, I’m breaking down some of the biggest youth internet trends in a way even graybeards can grasp, from esoteric financial instruments, to a vast fast-food conspiracy, to a look at some of TikTok’s most notable time travelers.
Why is everyone talking about Dogecoin?
The biggest financial meme this week on the internet is undoubtedly Dogecoin. Pronounced “dohj coin,” this cryptocurrency began in 2013, but unlike Bitcoin and other cryptos, Dogecoin was never meant to be a serious investment or currency. It was started as a joke, a parody of other coins. Even the name is based on mostly forgotten meme. But no one is laughing anymore.
Sudden internet interest and a tweet or two from Elon Musk and Mark Cuban has sent the price of Dogecoin into the ionosphere. It’s gone up by more than 11,000% so far this year, for a total market capitalization of more than $65 billion.
Free advice: It’s too late to catch this train. It’s a fad investment based on a meme and will probably fall quickly. Also, don’t lose your wallet.
True story: When Dogecoin launched in 2013, I thought it was funny, and spent an hour or two collecting the then-valueless currency. I think I ended up with about $.35 before I got bored. My Dogecoin is now worth $4,025, but it sits in a long-forgotten digital wallet somewhere behind a password I didn’t write down.
Why is everyone talking about NFTs?
The second most exciting investment meme on the Internet this week is NFTs, because it’s often actually investing in memes. An NFT, or “Non-Fungible Token,” is a unique cryptographic token that defines a digital asset (it can apply to real-world assets too, but for brevity’s sake, I’ll be sticking with the digital). NFTs are essentially a way of establishing the authenticity and ownership of a piece of digital content, whether it’s virtual real estate in an online world, unique skins or weapons in a video game, breedable digital cats, or pieces of digital art.
Users create, buy, and sell the ownership of digital assets on marketplaces like opensea.io, allowing some people to get rich and others to lose their shirts, all without the encumbrance of physical objects.
Before you dismiss them as a joke, keep in mind: The most expensive NFT—a collection of 5,000 digital art pieces by artist Beeple—recently sold at auction for more than $60 million.
Why is everyone talking about Squishmallows?
Squishmallows are part pillow and part plushie, and kids cannot get enough of these adorable things. The things are flying off store shelves, and if the trend continues, they’ll be in the “can’t buy it at any price” category of past fad toys like Beanie Babies and Tickle-me-Elmo. They’re so popular already, there are already store shortages, online guides on where to buy ‘em, and a robust and growing secondhand market on eBay.
You should buy as many Squishmallows as you can now, or you’ll be giving only disappointment for Christmas. Or buy a bunch of them as an “investment” and sell them to desperate parents in mid December. Do you want to miss out like you missed out on Dogecoin?
Why is everyone talking about time travelers on TikTok?
TikTok is home to all kinds of folks, from student drivers terrorizing their parents, to people who post the same picture of a pear again and again. And it’s also got time travelers. Lots of them.
For instance, Jimcarreyofficial says he’s a time traveler, but he seems to be joking, where @Authentictimetraveler is dead serious. He says he’s from 2582, and he’s totally OK with potentially destroying the space-continuum by revealing future events to his 200,000 or so TikTok followers. Most of his videos involve either the discovery of new animal species, warnings about imminent environmental calamities, or insistence that he’s a real time traveler. I give him one and a half stars out of five on my internet time traveler scale—the future should be way less preachy and insecure.
On the other side of the time-travel spectrum is Javier. He lives in 2027, and he is the last person alive. His videos are evocative, depressing shots of the empty world he’s trapped in, a world that looks just like ours, but that is devoid of people and animals. He soldiers on, searching, desperate to find someone, anyone else, on earth. Five out of five stars.
Viral video of the week: The real reason McDonald’s ice cream machines are always broken
In this week’s viral video, YouTuber Johnny Harris is blowing the lid off an international fast-food conspiracy. Specifically, why the ice cream machines at McDonald’s are always broken.
For the past few years, the internet has been fascinated with the instability of McIceCream machines. It’s spawned countless theories, memes, songs, and even a webpage that tracks the status of the ice cream machines at every McDonald’s store in the country. According to mainstream media investigations, the mundane, innocent explanation for the out-of-order treat machines is that they take a long time to auto-clean, but that answer doesn’t hold up to scrutiny—Wendy’s, for instance, has ice cream machines that need to be cleaned, and they’re usually working.
To get to the bottom of the mystery, Harris takes a deep dive into the minutia of ice cream machine maintenance, franchisee contracts, and the downside of corporate capitalism to arrive at a more complex, slightly nefarious explanation for the problem. I won’t spoil it, though. Check out the video yourself.