Viral News of 2022: Twitter’s Takeover, Olivia Wilde’s Salad Dressing and More
Plenty of big news happened in 2022. Frightening, fascinating, devastating and inspiring news with global implications. You can almost certainly, off the top of your head, name something that fits these descriptions. (And if you can’t, just remember Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars was, in fact, this calendar year.)
But what may not come so easily to mind are the littler things. What happened this year in popular culture and far-flung corners of social media may not have broken through your self-curated internet experience.
Perhaps you didn’t hear about that billionaire’s secret baby. Or you missed the week (and subsequent weeks) of the feud between that British actor and that New York restaurateur. Do the words “bucket bunnies” mean nothing to you? “Hurricane shark,” maybe?
This is the year in micronews, an attempt to chronicle the little things that happened across the internet that immediately left our minds, if they even registered at all.
Posts may get deleted and beefs settled. Entire social media platforms might seem on the verge of collapse. But, still, the internet never forgets. So join us and take a stroll down 2022’s digital memory lane.
Jennifer Aniston’s Salad Debunking
If you search for the “Jennifer Aniston Salad” on TikTok, you’ll find millions of videos about a very specific chickpea salad — garbanzo beans with cucumbers, feta, red onions, bulgur and a healthy topping of several herbs. The “Friends” star was rumored to have eaten the dish every day on the show’s set for years. “I feel like I’m disappointing everybody, but that’s not my salad,” Ms. Aniston told Shape. “It looks delicious, but it’s not the salad that I had on ‘Friends.’”
Olivia Wilde’s Salad Dressing
A blip in the dramatic timeline during the release of Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling” came courtesy of a Daily Mail story about her split from the actor Jason Sudeikis and a rumored on-set affair with Harry Styles, who stars in the film. In the article, a nanny who worked for Ms. Wilde and Mr. Sudeikis said Mr. Sudeikis had laid down in front of a car Ms. Wilde was about to drive off in to keep her from, allegedly, bringing Mr. Styles a salad made with her “special dressing.” What was the dressing? Ms. Wilde later posted a screenshot of a recipe for salad dressing from Nora Ephron’s “Heartburn” on an Instagram story. Mr. Sudeikis and Ms. Wilde also referred to the nanny’s claims as “false and scurrilous accusations” in a joint statement.
Rest in Peace, Choco Taco
The Choco Taco was sent off to ice cream heaven this summer, prompting a digital wake from fans for the nut-and-chocolate-topped treat. (Weeks before, Unilever, which owns Klondike, had confirmed it was axing the product.) “Dear @Unilever — I’d like to buy the rights to your Choco Taco and keep it from melting away from future generations’ childhoods,” Alexis Ohanian, a founder of Reddit, tweeted.
The Boards Are Back in Town
What, you may wonder, is a butter board? The greasier cousin of a charcuterie board, slathered in butter and topped with herbs, spices and other accouterments accompanied by bread for dipping. Online, the boards were divisive. Were they a gastronomical innovation or an affront?
The Technically Edible
Kendall Jenner’s Cucumber
Kendall Jenner — model, tequila hawker and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” star — is back on television in a new show on Hulu, “The Kardashians.” In one episode, Ms. Jenner struggles to cut a cucumber with a knife, a scene quickly skewered by some social media users. “Tragic,” Ms. Jenner wrote of her cutting display on Twitter. She later asked a family chef for a knife lesson, she said during an interview after a Los Angeles screening of the show, “Today” reported. On Halloween, Ms. Jenner posted a TikTok video dressed as a cucumber.
No Food for You
“What is the weirdest thing you had to do at someone else’s house because of their culture/religion?” A Reddit post asking this question caused a stir, both on the platform and subsequently on Twitter, in June when it revealed that in Sweden and other Nordic countries some families follow a tradition of not providing food for children visiting during mealtime. Instead, a child might instead be asked to go play in their friend’s room while they eat.
A bottle of mysterious neon pink condiment became the talk of TikTok this summer after a content creator known on the app as Chef Pii posted about her so-called Pink Sauce, which reportedly got its vibrant hue from dragon fruit. On TikTok, the sauce looked like mayonnaise mixed with bright pink food coloring. Some social media users, however, were skeptical of the viral product, which Chef Pii began selling for $20 a bottle in July. Some users claimed the ingredients list and quantities didn’t add up, according to a report from Vice. “It smells as if ranch dressing went bad. There is no hint of any potential sweetness from the dragon fruit or coconut cream,” the writer, Julie Roscoe wrote, noting that the sauce, which is being sold by Dave’s Gourmet Specialty Foods, was orange, not pink.
In September, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about a social media trend in which people were cooking chicken in NyQuil. Online, it was better known as “sleepytime chicken” and had been something of a niche years-old joke rather than a real culinary suggestion. Still, the F.D.A.’s warning thrust NyQuil chicken into the public eye on a much broader scale.
The Spread of Misinformation and Falsehoods
The Lettuce Head of State
The Daily Star, a British tabloid, live-streamed a head of decomposing lettuce to see which would last longer: the vegetable or the tenure of Prime Minister Liz Truss. Congrats to the leafy victor.
West Elm Caleb
In January, Mimi Shou, a TikTok creator, posted a video about getting ghosted by a man named Caleb. In the comments section, other women chimed in about a different Caleb in the New York City dating scene. They named him West Elm Caleb — he listed his employer on his dating profile — and alleged he had ghosted them. Ms. Shou’s video soon inspired additional videos from other women who said they had dated or interacted with West Elm Caleb. In the end, West Elm Caleb was doxxed and several of the women who made videos about him said they received death threats from others online. What started as a TikTok dating drama had quickly spiraled into a cautionary allegory for the social media age.
During an appearance on the podcast “Call Her Daddy,” Julia Fox took some creative liberties with her pronunciation of the name of her breakout film “Uncut Gems.” It sounded something like “uncuh jaaaahms” and inspired social media copycats and parodies on TikTok. On a comment she left later on an Instagram post by Page Six, Ms. Fox wrote she had been stoned during the interview.
What Are the ‘Womblands’?
The content creators Chelsea Hart and Lance Tsosie, an Indigenous activist better known online as Modern Warrior, posted videos on the platform as part of a dispute between the pair. (They had previously been linked romantically.) The alleged beef was nuanced and messy and if you’re interested into getting into said mess, try this episode of Slate’s “ICYMI.” The fight, however, did give TikTok users a new word, “womblands,” after some users misheard Chelsea Hart saying the words, “my womb, Lance.”
The Gentleminions Are Coming By
A TikTok trend inspired by the release of “Minions: The Rise of Gru” manifested itself in some moviegoers attending screenings of the film in suits and sunglasses. (The film was the fourth installment in the “Despicable Me” franchise.) While the hordes of besuited moviegoers were widely met with praise online, some theaters warned patrons that those arriving in suits might be asked to leave, and a chain in Britain even banned them for fear of future disturbances to other patrons.
The singer Fletcher caused a TikTok stir within the microcosm of social media that is WLW (shorthand for “women-loving women”) TikTok. Her track “Becky’s So Hot,” sent some social media users into a tizzy trying to decipher the gossipy tune that detailed a relationship between Fletcher’s ex-girlfriend and Fletcher’s ex-girlfriend’s new girlfriend, Becky. (Say that five times fast!)
Bama Rush Returns
For the second year in a row, rush week — the week when young women vie for spots in sororities — at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa captivated TikTok users. This year, though, a secret documentary, uncovered by The New York Times, raised stress levels on campus to new heights.
Reddit’s Sexiest (or Possibly Least Sexiest) Song
“Cbat,” a 2011 electronic track by the Scottish D.J. Hudson Mohawke got a bizarre second life this year after going viral on Reddit. A user posted about the track, saying his girlfriend had recently revealed she did not enjoy having sex to the song, which the user claimed to have selected specifically for its particular rhythm. The post baffled many on social media and prompted the song to become inescapable on TikTok for a short period. “It’s not a song I would’ve put on a sex playlist, but kink-shaming is none of my business,” Mr. Mohawke said in an interview with NBC News.
Introducing Che Diaz
While not technically news, per se, the introduction of Che Diaz on the show “And Just Like That,” the reboot of “Sex and the City,” caused such a stir online that we would be remiss not to include Diaz on the list. The new character, portrayed by Sara Ramirez, became a polarizing figure ripe for Twitter fodder for weeks at the beginning of the year.
The Jig Jig Is Up
The world of competitive Irish dancing was rocked by allegations of a cheating scandal after text messages reported by The Irish Independent appeared to reveal a competition-rigging scandal. An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha, the organization that oversees the competition, has started an investigation.
A Not-So-Secret-Anymore Baby
In a Vanity Fair profile, the musician Grimes revealed she and Elon Musk secretly became parents to a second child, delivered via surrogate. The baby, a girl called Y, joins their boy, called X.
A Not-So-Royal Baby
Social media users speculated wildly that the YouTuber Trisha Paytas had given birth to a reincarnation of British royalty after Ms. Paytas announced signs that labor was imminent on Twitter the day before Queen Elizabeth II’s death. The day after the queen’s death, Ms. Paytas addressed the rumors in an Instagram post noting they were still pregnant and expressing sympathy for the royal family: “I almost felt sad yesterday to tell people this. The internet is a weird place. I don’t know how any of those rumors started or why.”
The Rise of the Nepo Baby
Nepotism or “nepo babies,” the children of the rich and famous who often have a leg up in the world by nature of who their parents are, have always been around. But in 2022, Gen Z discovered them, largely thanks to Maude Apatow, daughter of the Hollywood couple actress Leslie Mann and director Judd Apatow. Online, some fans of the show “Euphoria” were disappointed to discover the actress was a “nepo baby.” “People are going to have preconceived ideas about you or how you got there, and I can definitely say that nothing is going to get you the part except for being right for the part,” Lilly Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, later said in an interview with Elle magazine when asked about being one herself.
Child Star vs. Child Star
The children’s entertainer Jojo Siwa and the “Full House” actor Candace Cameron Bure became unlikely foes after Ms. Siwa posted a now-deleted TikTok in which she described Ms. Bure as the “rudest celebrity” Ms. Siwa had ever met. (While Ms. Siwa deleted her TikTok, you’ll have no trouble finding clips of it on the app, where social media users discussed it for days and weeks this summer.) Ms. Bure later apologized on Instagram, taking their fight multiplatform.
Elmo vs. Rocco
A clip from a 2004 episode of “Sesame Street” kicked off 2022 with, if not a bang, a quiet rage. In the clip, Elmo lights into fellow monster friend Zoe when Zoe wants to feed a cookie to her pet rock, Rocco. “Rocco?” Elmo says. “Rocco’s a rock, Zoe! Rocco won’t know the difference!” Zoe protests and Elmo goes for the throat. “How? How is Rocco going to eat that cookie, Zoe? Tell Elmo. Rocco doesn’t even have a mouth. Rocco’s just a rock! Rocco’s not alive!” Something about hearing the beloved little red monster so full of very relatable ire struck a chord online.
Bucket Bunnies vs. Line Wives
In the wake of Hurricane Ian, power line technicians began repairs on areas affected by the storm. When these workers popped up on dating apps in the area, some TikTok users reportedly were thrilled by their arrival. But, according to BuzzFeed News, their arrival turned dramatic when the wives of the line technicians, known colloquially as “line wives,” began fighting online with so-called bucket bunnies, women interested in having romantic flings with the line technicians.
McNally vs. Corden
The restaurateur Keith McNally picked a fight with late night host James Corden by posting on Instagram an accusation that Mr. Corden had behaved badly during a recent meal at Balthazar, one of Mr. McNally’s restaurants. Mr. McNally then banned and unbanned Mr. Corden in a series of additional posts, stating Mr. Corden had apologized. Mr. Corden wrote in a text to journalist Caitlin Moran at the time, later published in an interview between the two: “I never screamed at anyone, I didn’t shout, didn’t call anyone a name or swear or use derogatory language … How is it remotely a thing? And that be OK? And now it’s fact, and that’s that. When that person who posted the story wasn’t even there. Just so odd.”
Did Harry Styles spit on his co-star Chris Pine during the Venice premiere of “Don’t Worry Darling”? This was yet another notch in the film’s extended universe. Snopes says no, but that didn’t stop social media users from parsing, Zapruder-like, footage from the scene.
Somebody Read This One to Lea Michele
Lea Michele, the “Glee” star turned titular “Funny Girl,” addressed a yearslong internet rumor that she is illiterate. “Calling Jonathan to read me the comments on my first TikTok,” Ms. Michele wrote in an on-screen caption in a TikTok video she posted in September. (Jonathan is Jonathan Groff, who starred with Ms. Michele in “Spring Awakening.”) “I went to ‘Glee’ every single day; I knew my lines every single day,” she told The New York Times in an interview earlier in the month. “And then there’s a rumor online that I can’t read or write? It’s sad. It really is. I think often if I were a man, a lot of this wouldn’t be the case.”
Adam Levine’s DMs
A model leaked alleged Instagram DMs from the Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine. Mr. Levine denied having had an affair in a now-deleted Instagram story but said he “crossed a line during a regrettable period in my life.” Mr. Levine’s alleged DMs quickly became memes in their own right, including one message in which he reportedly wrote the phrase “the booty.”
The Trying of the Try Guys
The popular YouTube group the Try Guys faced a public reckoning after one of its members, Ned Fulmer, was caught having an affair with a co-worker. (Founded at BuzzFeed in 2014, the Try Guys have since spun off into their own media company. The group rose to fame by trying new things, including wearing women’s underwear and playing roller derby.) Eagle-eyed fans noticed Mr. Fulmer’s absence from the group’s social media content in the weeks before the group’s announcement that it had parted ways with Mr. Fulmer.
The Surprisingly Delightful
The Miami Jewish Boys Choir
A 2007 video of an Orthodox Jewish pop group, the Miami Boys Choir, got a new life as a viral TikTok ear worm in September. The choir’s soloists, now grown adults, found themselves sudden internet celebrities for a brief moment, NBC News reported.
A Met Cute
“Love ya, bye,” the rapper Jack Harlow said, ending a red carpet interview with the YouTuber Emma Chamberlain at the Met Gala in May. “Love ya,” Ms. Chamberlain replied, proceeding to widen her eyes and snort to herself after Mr. Harlow stepped away. The delightful and deeply relatable moment (who hasn’t casually said “love you” to somebody, be it a teacher, a colleague or Jack Harlow and immediately cringed?) went viral on YouTube and TikTok. Ms. Chamberlain and Mr. Harlow spoke about it on separate appearances on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
The Internet Is for Corn
A chance encounter turned a 7-year-old boy into an internet star for his love of corn. “For me, I really like corn,” Tariq said in a now-viral interview with Julian Shapiro-Barnum, the host of the internet show “Recess Therapy,” which features Mr. Shapiro-Barnum’s interviews with children. Corn is a “big lump with knobs,” Tariq explained. “It has the juice,” he added. “I can’t imagine a more beautiful thing.” A popular YouTube music group, the Gregory Brothers, remixed the interview into a song that has been viewed more than 84.8 million times on TikTok.
TikTok Shimmers and Shimmies
While Swifties documented their great war with Ticketmaster trying to secure tickets for Taylor Swift’s upcoming Eras tour, one fan channeled his energy into more creative pursuits. Mikael Arellano’s dance to Ms. Swift’s new song “Bejeweled” became an oft-imitated hit for its simple yet delightful choreography. While many popular TikTok dances are predicated on elaborate moves and precise rhythm, if you can pretend to strut a runway and throw some spirit fingers, you can do this dance.
Scorsese’s Best Work You’ve Never Seen
Several years ago, a Tumblr user uploaded a picture of a pair of boots they had bought online with a strange tag attached. It was an advertisement for a movie, presented by Martin Scorsese, called “Goncharov”: “About the Naples Mafia,” read the final line. The image circulated quietly for years until November when it suddenly went viral, inspiring an inside joke that the film was actually real. Tumblr users created a realistic poster, composed a score and devoted posts to plotlines and lore, all committing to a bit on the platform that “Goncharov,” a film that does not exist, is real. Mr. Scorsese even reportedly got in on the joke, via a TikTok posted by his daughter.
A Model Does the Worm
Continuing in her longstanding tradition of wearing an elaborate costume at her annual Halloween bash, Heidi Klum donned a giant, prosthetic worm suit for her 2022 look and promptly became a meme. “Because it is Halloween, you need the creepy factor, also a bit gross and disgusting,” Ms. Klum told Vogue.
The Place to Be
The Reddit subcommunity r/place is an annual collaborative art project where the members of the group project are anybody on the internet who wants to participate. Contributors each placed a single image tile every five minutes, working together to create an ever-evolving digital mural. (The tradition began in 2017 as an April Fools’ Day joke and has continued to grow since.) The project happened over the course of 87 hours in April with more than 10.4 million users participating and ultimately setting a Reddit record as the most up-voted post of the entire year.
A King Dethroned
Brian Johnson, better known online as the Liver King, made a name for himself promoting what he called the “ancestral lifestyle.” It involves extreme workouts and consuming copious amounts of raw liver, and he credited it as the secret to his muscular physique. (A physique that contributed to his business selling protein powders and supplements via social media.) In December, Mr. Johnson revealed in a YouTube confessional that he had been using steroids to enhance his body
Goodbye to Twitter, Twitter
Rumors swirled and speculation abounded in the days after Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter. Some users predicted this change in power might be the end for the social media platform, posting final tweets to the platform. (At one point in mid-November, #RIPTwitter even trended.) These farewells were, of course, posted to Twitter — a platform that remains fully alive.
The Terminally Online
Twitter Needs to Switch to Decaf
“My husband and i wake up every morning and bring our coffee out to our garden and sit and talk for hours. every morning. it never gets old & we never run out of things to talk to. love him so much,” Daisey Beaton tweeted in October. The seemingly innocuous tweet received thousands of quote tweets and replies, many from users baselessly accusing Ms. Beaton of flaunting wealth and privilege. “I thought the backlash was so silly! I never thought someone could take what I said and turn it into something negative,” Ms. Beaton later told BuzzFeed.
Hail Gaga, Full of Grace
“Scientists at Stanford University have reconstructed this 3D model of how Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ might have looked,” @brotaminz tweeted. The attached photo, a computer rendering as a woman’s face, probably looked very familiar if you’d seen the most recent remake of “A Star Is Born” or were a fan of the album “Chromatica.” That’s because the image was not of the mother of Jesus Christ, but rather of Lady Gaga. The image had previously circulated in 2019, according to Paper Magazine, when another Twitter user claimed it was a rendering of Cleopatra.
Emmanuel Todd Lopez, the Emu, Lives
One of TikTok’s favorite emus — yes, there are several — gave fans a fright after a case of avian influenza struck down many of the birds at Knuckle Bump Farms, a small hobby farm in Florida. The emu, Emmanuel Todd Lopez, exhibited symptoms of the illness but ultimately tested negative, according to his owner, Taylor Blake, who runs a TikTok account for the farm with over two million followers. (The Washington Post interviewed Emmanuel in July, and Ms. Blake appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”) In the end, Ms. Blake said the bird was just stressed, but not before social media users dug up old tweets that appeared to be from Ms. Blake’s account that included racial slurs.
Hurricane Shark Also (Maybe) Lives
If you’ve ever been on social media during a hurricane, you’re likely familiar with the mythical hurricane shark — a longstanding internet gag where some users claim inclement weather conditions lead to a shark swimming casually down a flooded highway. Only this year, during Hurricane Ian, hoax became, for once, reality. Well, maybe. Expert opinion was ultimately inconclusive about exactly what was swimming around in a video circulating online during the storm, though the video itself was confirmed to be legitimate.
At no point in the movie “Morbius” does Morbius actually say the line, “it’s morbin’ time.” But you might have thought otherwise if you spent much time on Twitter this spring. The line, an inside joke that originated online in 2021 via the internet ephemera archive Know Your Meme, didn’t find traction until the film’s release in April, when it became a Twitter gag.
The Technically P.R. but Still Fun
Dancers were inspired by a teaser video for Netflix’s “Matilda,” thanks to a girl in a red beret featured front and center in a behind-the-scenes clip from the upcoming movie musical. In it, the girl and her fellow mischievous classmates dance to the song “Revolting Children.” (Known on TikTok simply as red beret girl, the dancer is played by the actor Meesha Garbett,who stars as the character Hortensia in the film.) Even Missy Elliott got in on the trend, retweeting a video of the clip remixed with Ms. Elliott’s “Lose Control.” “Oooooooooweeeee,” Ms. Elliott tweeted with several fire emojis. “This fye.”
Rat City Tisch, Rat, Rat City Tisch
“The rats are going to hate this announcement, but the rats don’t run this city. We do,” Jessica Tisch, the New York City sanitation commissioner, said at a news conference in October. Whether or not rats run the city has yet to be determined, but on TikTok the vermin reign. Clips of the line have been used in thousands of videos and even remixed by a TikTok user into “Welcome to New York” by Taylor Swift.
An HBO Max TikTok turned a cocktail into a viral sensation. In a conversation between two “House of the Dragon” stars, Emma D’Arcy tells Olivia Cooke their favorite cocktail: the negroni sbagliato — specifically “a negroni sbagliato with prosecco in it” — and it became a popular meme, especially among members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community.
Dunkin’s Loyalty Demise
Dunkin’, the artist formerly known as Dunkin’ Donuts, announced it was ending its loyalty program, DD Perks, and replacing it with a new program called Dunkin’ Rewards. Fans took to Reddit, according to a report from Wired, to express anger over the new program, which would require significantly more points — by buying items at Dunkin’ — to earn free drinks.