- Both mainstream celebrities and internet influencers were caught up in controversy this year.
- Ticketmaster was derided online, Joe Rogan sparked controversy for COVID-19 comments, and more.
- The list covers events from all the way back in January to this month.
What didn't happen on the internet in 2022? Stan armies exploded over ticket-purchasing problems, influencers beefed about boxing, Twitter changed owners, a couple of fake trends gained viral attention, and more. To sum up the year, Insider assembled a list of 10 of the wildest things to happen on the internet in 2022.
Elon Musk's reign as Twitter CEO — so far, two months full of backlash and controversies — may already be over, after he created a poll on the website Sunday asking people if he should step down.
He wrote on Twitter that he would stand by the results of the poll, and after over 17 million users voted in a 24 hour time period, the results were resoundingly (57% to 43%) in favor of him dropping out.
Musk's volatile time as Twitter's CEO has been marked by a seemingly constant blizzard of incidents. Just after completing the acquisition deal in October, there was a flood of antisemitic hate speech and uses of the n-word on the site, and a slew of banned far-right users tried to rejoin the platform.
Soon after taking over, Musk also shared an article from a website known for spreading baseless conspiracy theories. He later pardoned a mass of previously suspended far-right influencers — including former President Donald Trump — which worried misinformation researchers who said the platform could become a hotbed for disinformation and conspiracy theories.
Musk sparked further condemnation in December after suspending a slew of high-profile tech journalists from outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post. Musk claimed they participated in an effort to "dox" him by reporting about Twitter suspending ElonJet, an account that used public data to track the locations of Musk's private jet. (Musk later unbanned the journalists' accounts after he made a poll and the results said he should.)
It's unclear whether Musk will actually follow the results of his poll and step down, letting someone else take the head role. But it's difficult to imagine Twitter feeling any more chaotic or in flux than it does right now.
A couple of fake headlines went so viral this year that outlets reported them as real news, sparking a wider discourse about how easy it is to get readers (and in this case, journalists) to believe in fictional nonsense.
One of the fake trends, "goblin mode," became such a big phenomenon that it was voted to win the Oxford English Dictionary's word of the year contest, beating tough contenders like "metaverse." Oxford defines the phrase as a kind of behavior that's "unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations."
The term was created by Juniper, a pseudonymous Twitter influencer with over 130,000 followers, as part of a meme where they wrote a fake headline about Julia Fox and Kanye West's now-ended relationship.
"Julia Fox opened up about her 'difficult' relationship with Kanye West 'He didn't like when I went goblin mode,'" read a tweet of the fake headline, which garnered over 100,000 likes. The real headline was from the news outlet Pinkzilla and said "Julia Fox opened up about her 'difficult' relationship with Kanye West before split announcement."
The headline could've been easily fact-checked, but multiple publications, including Vogue, wrote about it, as Insider previously reported.
Along with "goblin mode," the nonsensical phrase "Skeleton brunch" vaulted into the viral spotlight early in 2022 as a supposedly dangerous trend that kids were doing, in the same vein as other potentially harmful fads like the milk crate challenge.
One of the most viral tweets about "Skeleton brunch" was a picture of three digitally edited news headlines by The Sun, The New York Post, and Insider.
"What is 'Skeleton Brunch' and how to know if your teen is at risk," one of the headlines read.
The meme caught on like wildfire and at least one publication appeared to cover it like it was genuine news.
On April 9, "The LaBrant Fam," a family-run YouTube channel with 13.1 million subscribers released a video called "Abortion. (documentary)," which included interviews with anti-abortion activists Dr. Anthony Levatino and Dr. Kathi Aultman, who described the process of abortion in graphic detail.
The 38-minute-long video, which has since been viewed over 4.6 million times, listed death tolls from the Rwandan genocide, the Cambodian genocide, and the Holocaust, before showing a counter which suggested there had been upwards of 61 million abortions in the US, although they did not cite a reference or timeframe.
A tweet which shared side-by-side screens of the video with the caption, "The LaBrant Family kind of just implied that abortion is worse than the Holocaust in their new documentary," received over 20,000 likes and over 700 quote tweets.
On April 1, influencer Gabbie Hanna posted a video to her TikTok account, which had 7.3 million followers at the time, telling viewers to "listen up" as she had advice for "overcoming depression," which included taking up a hobby like "water sports."
"You're sitting there like, 'I don't wanna live,' and you've never parasailed and you want to parasail? Go parasail," Hanna said in the video, which has over 84,000 views.
Some comments reacting to the video accused Hanna of being "out of touch" and suggested she "should've thought more on it before doing this." One comment with over 100 likes said, "When I was clinically depressed, nothing gave me joy. I couldn't feel joy anymore. My brain didn't let me enjoy my hobbies. Cheap or not. Nothing."
"Getting up is a win when you're suffering from clinical depression. Someone condescendingly screaming and cursing at you to jump out of a plane doesn't sound helpful," one comment said, which received over 300 likes.
Joe Rogan came under fire early in 2022 for his past instances of spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and speaking with guests who share misinformation on his podcast, "The Joe Rogan Experience."
Rogan has falsely claimed that children and healthy young people don't need to get vaccines and shared the baseless claim that lockdowns make the disease spread more, among other things. He also conducted a criticism-sparking interview with Dr. Robert Malone, an anti-vaccine scientist who said on Rogan's show that a mass psychosis had led to a "third of the population basically being hypnotized" to believe COVID-19 facts.
Rogan, who has over 13 and 16 million followers on YouTube and Instagram, respectively, said at the time of the controversy in February that he was not trying to propagate misinformation.
The discourse centered around Spotify and whether it would take any action against "The Joe Rogan Experience," which has been the platform's top podcast in the US for ages.
A number of popular musicians, including Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, announced they were pulling their music from Spotify because of Rogan's COVID-19 comments.
Spotify never suspended Rogan's podcast, but instead placed a content advisory on every episode that included COVID-19-related discussion.
On May 2, Kami and Ben Crawford, who have over 53,000 subscribers on YouTube, published an Instagram post which said their son Rainier had been "struggling physically" and "crying" after participating alongside them in a marathon race.
On May 4, American Olympic marathon runner Kara Goucher appeared to reference the Crawfords on Twitter, although she did not name them directly.
In a tweet that received 3,880 likes, Goucher said, "I don't know who needs to hear this but a six-year-old cannot fathom what a marathon will do to them physically." This was followed by a second tweet posted by Goucher which said, "I promise you this is not good for the child," in a tweet that received 1,536 likes.
The Crawfords posted a response on their Instagram account on May 8, where they said, "Yesterday Child Protective Services (CPS) arrived at our home unannounced and interviewed our children." In the post, they suggested, "world class olympians with international stages like Kara Goucher" had used their platforms to prompt a witch hunt.
On June 15, the Crawford family released a one-hour-and-23-minute video about their son competing in the marathon which received over 1.1 million views.
During the middle of 2022, the kickboxer-turned-influencer Andrew Tate was suddenly on everyone's TikTok For You page, or else his name was plastered by fans in comment sections. He became a viral phenomenon on the back of a number of viral talking clips and an army of devoted fans that fervently shared his content across platforms like TikTok and YouTube.
He was known mostly for his misogynistic strain of self-help and financial advice, like saying he needed authority over women and calling female self-defense "bullshit." His misogynistic statements led to him being permanently suspended from almost every mainstream social media platform in August. Tate was unbanned from Twitter after Elon Musk took over the website, and has an audience of almost three million followers on the platform.
Despite the ban on TikTok, where his content was very dominant, there are still fan accounts with over 100,000 followers thriving by sharing his content and preaching the Tate gospel, urging viewers to join the influencer's "Hustlers University" online training program.
Tate has made headlines for other reasons, too, like his apparent feuds with fellow influencers and boxers Logan and Jake Paul, who have challenged him to matches.
The surge in demand for Taylor Swift's "Eras" tour tickets was so intense that Ticketmaster crashed, and the internet exploded with condemnation and fiery memes.
Ticketmaster has drawn severe criticism over the years — both for the way it has a stranglehold on the ticketing industry and for how difficult it can make buying tickets — and this seemed to be the largest backlash it's faced to date. The company said in a statement that its website crashed because it received an unprecedented volume of visitors, with over "3.5 billion total system requests," which they wrote was four times the previous high amount.
Scores of Swifties reported online that they were having trouble accessing the website and purchasing tickets, while others said they were forced to pay thousands of dollars for resale tickets.
Even Swift seemed to join in the backlash, posting an Instagram statement about the incident in which she appeared to reference Ticketmaster. She said it was "very difficult" for her to "trust an outside entity with these relationships and loyalties, and excruciating" for her "to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse."
Ticketmaster's implosion resulted in numerous lawsuits launched against it by Swift fans, as well as the US Department of Justice opening an investigation into the company over its monopolistic practices. Some fans also lodged a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
The company is still trying to sell the remaining 170,000 tickets for the tour.
On January 11, New York based TikToker Mimi Shou uploaded a six-second-long video which referenced an exchange she had with a first date that went well, however she was ghosted when she asked for a second. In the caption, she said, "This one's dedicated to Caleb. No hard feelings though you were too tall."
In a follow-up video posted on January 17 that was viewed over 1.5 million times, Shou said she kept receiving comments from girls asking if it was "West Elm Caleb" she had dated, as the description sounded similar to a 6-foot-4 furniture designer who had been dating and "love-bombing" various girls before disappearing on them.
Multiple TikTokers made videos to say they too had matched with West Elm Caleb on dating sites and received similar treatment. In a more serious allegation, 23-year-old Kate Pearce told Insider she had matched with Caleb on Hinge who had sent her two sexually explicit pictures. After ghosting her, Pearce said Caleb reinitiated contact one month later, and sent her another picture of his penis on Snapchat.
As originally reported, Insider was not able to independently verify the veracity of the claims or that Pearce had been sent the nude photos, since she deleted them, but Pearce showed screenshots of them discussing the photos.
On June 11, food content creator Carly Pii started promoting her new "Pink sauce" on her TikTok account. She advertised the condiment in a series of videos, including one clip where she drizzled the sauce over KFC chicken, which was viewed over 5.8 million times.
Some users noted there were differences in the color of the sauce between the bottles and highlighted abnormalities on the nutrition label which Pii told Insider was an "honest mistake." Pii responded to the reaction by describing it as "crazy" and accused people of "trying to build clout."
"I will not let someone that doesn't understand my entire mission take it away through ignorance," she told Insider. "Hey, they ridiculed Jesus. Who am I, you know?"
For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider's Digital Culture team here.