In 2013, we had fun on the internet. Will that ever happen again?


In August, a TikTok video of a 7-year-old named Tariq whisked me again to 2013 when being on-line was really enjoyable.

By way of a toothy jack-o’-lantern grin, he waxed poetic in regards to the delights of corn with such unadulterated pleasure and sincerity that virality appeared nearly inevitable. The video unfold broadly and shortly Tariq grew to become generally known as “Corn Child” throughout the web and past. He was featured on Good Morning America, rode in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, was named an official “Corn-bassador” of South Dakota, and gained additional notoriety when YouTube creator Schmoyoho crafted a musical remix of his lovely enthusiasm that has since been utilized in greater than 1.4 million TikToks. 

For a second, the web felt heat and candy. “Corn Child” was a TikTok hit, the viral wunderkind of a platform that continued to really feel thrillingly contemporary and unpredictable this yr, the way in which Vine did when it launched practically a decade in the past, and YouTube did till an inflow of showy creators, political vitriol, and conspiracies ruined the enjoyable for everybody. 

Again then, the magic of the web revealed itself day by day. It was electrical with chance, and logging on was accompanied by the thrilling anticipation of discovery. New kinds of humor, new types of self-expression by means of GIFs, movies, and photograph sharing, and new methods to speak by means of social media and instantaneous messaging have been taking form on-line. The thought of an web “pattern” was model new; we might now see one thing on-line — like “Gangnam Model” or the Harlem Shake — and replicate it ourselves. In 2013, what was large on the web was large for everybody on the web.

Again then, the magic of the web revealed itself in new methods day by day. It was electrical with chance, and logging on was accompanied by the thrilling anticipation of discovery.

That yr’s YouTube Rewind, an annual video recap of the yr’s most viral clips and tendencies, reveals how united we have been then by a shared cultural dialogue. The video was themed round Ylvis’s “What Does the Fox Say?” a viral hit performed on heavy rotation, carried out at awards reveals, and parroted ubiquitously in each day life. The Rewind montage additionally referenced Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Traces” music movies, a reminder that there was a time when releases have been main monolithic occasions (and the final consciousness of rape tradition was low.) 

By 2018, YouTube acquired a lot backlash for its lack of ability to seize the more and more fractured expanse of the web that it gave up on producing Rewind videos fully.

At present, Corn Child’s glee over the buttery goodness of an ear of corn feels so valuable as a result of the web now feels so bitter and divisive. Politics embitters a lot of our on-line expertise, and the remainder of it’s suffocated by negativity or bullying. In the meantime, cultural content material has turn out to be so by-product, nearer to regurgitation than reinvention. Marvel’s big-budget blowouts personal the field workplace, and Broadway is flooded with jukebox musicals and film diversifications. Skins walked in order that the drug-popping, sex-charged teenagers of Euphoria might run, and HBO Max’s Gossip Woman reboot has but to re-awaken the fervor for the unique. Even the digital tendencies are repetitive.

On the charts, the explosive development of hip-hop and Latin music, and the rise of Ok-pop — which has ballooned as a worldwide financial and cultural pressure since Psy’s 2012 hit “Gangnam Style” — are all thrilling developments. However a lot of the business remains to be thriving on nostalgia the place all the things previous will get reborn on the web. The 1975, whose recognition surged alongside Skins GIF units on Tumblr in 2013, are making attractive tongues wag on TikTok once more. Harry Kinds is on the top of his energy, 10 years after One Path have been on the top of theirs. Taylor Swift has managed to stay pervasive, a decade after Purple grew to become her first no. 1 album within the U.S. An emo-infused pop-rock resurgence led by newcomers like Olivia Rodrigo and the return of Paramore and My Chemical Romance has even woven its approach again into the material of popular culture, 10 years after its dominance on our airwaves.

There isn’t a longer a “mainstream” tradition all of us take part in.

In February, NBC shared that viewership for its 2022 Olympics protection was 43 p.c decrease than that of the final Olympics. Some blamed it on COVID restrictions or on the time difference between China and the U.S., however the scores additionally spoke to a lack of group, of singular cultural occasions that used to unite us.

There isn’t a longer a “mainstream” tradition all of us take part in. The web is algorithmic, thriving on area of interest pursuits and breaking down into smaller and smaller corners till we’re all staring into our personal extremely custom-made feed. Being on-line feels much less like a collective expertise and extra like a choose-your-own-adventure. That is what makes Corn Child so particular.

Corn Child is nothing new himself. In reality, I am most likely endeared to his pleasant little rant as a result of I grew up on web tradition that valued the easy, bizarre, and irreverent. However that stuff may also be the purest type of leisure, marrying the enjoyable of 2013 with hyper-specific, algorithm-driven modernity.

If YouTube reduce a Rewind for 2023, Tariq would undoubtedly be its star, due to the recognition of Schmoyoho’s remix, though credit score for his fame because the “Corn Child” is owed to TikTok. However what else introduced us collectively this yr? The World Cup, positive. Mutual disdain for Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover and the dying whimpers of cryptocurrency, positive. However past that, the web has turn out to be so unfavourable, or untrustworthy, or blasé, or just too large for us to really feel united by something in any respect.

Besides on TikTok, which has by some means mixed the extraordinarily area of interest with the broadly relatable, and the place a toothless little boy holding an ear of corn bigger than his personal face will inform you in earnest, “I hope you’ve gotten a corntastic day!”


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