Today we celebrate 12 strange hashtags which trended on social media over the past several years. While some viral stories were deliberately planned by media companies, some were the work of organized pranksters such as 4chan. In other cases, strange things seemed to go viral for no apparent reason at all. This list is by no means complete, but it is a fun collection of strange viral hashtags we’ve reported over the past 4 years.
12 Strange Hashtags That Went Viral
A Twitter hashtag regarding the death of Margaret Thatcher in April 2013 inadvertently sparked a death rumor about Cher.
As news of Thatcher’s death spread on social media, the hashtag #nowthatchersdead – meant to read “now Thatcher’s dead” – was mistakenly read by many as “now that Cher’s dead.” As the hashtag spread, users began memorializing the singer, not realizing the mistake.
Comedian Ricky Gervais helped set the record straight with a tweet that received thousands of re-tweets:
Some people are in a frenzy over the hashtag #nowthatchersdead.
It’s “Now Thatcher’s dead”.
Not, “Now that Cher’s dead”
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) April 8, 2013
The Wall Street Journal’s story on the hashtag was the most tweeted article of the day.
Twitter lit up with the hash tag #RIPEnchancerZak in July 2012, as news that a Greyson Chance fan met with an untimely demise in a car accident. The fan, whose Twitter name was @Zenchancerboy, also known as Zak_Enchancer, spent his final hours bravely battling his injuries while a friend tweeted on his behalf.
It was all just a hoax.
“Zak” created his Twitter account only 18 days before his demise. In those few weeks, he spent most of this time interacting with other Greyson Chance fans, sending out nearly 1500 tweets during that time. The faux drama began when a “friend” began tweeting on his behalf, telling Twitter followers that Zak had been in a car accident. After a few ups and downs, the friend said Zak was “gone.”
As fans of Greyson Chance discussed the death of Zak, many began to figure out that he wasn’t real.
Twitter users pointed out that it was highly unlikely that if a young man was clinging to life that his best friend would take the time to continually update all of his “friends” on an account he created only 18 days earlier. There also appeared to be no real-life friends of this person on Twitter, nor a link to any other social media sites such as Facebook or Tumblr.
Former social media friends of Zak began to attack whoever was behind the fake profile, and the account was deleted.
The hashtag #EndFathersDay trended on Twitter in June 2014, sparking outrage and debate, which was likely the goal of its creators.
#EndFathersDay was a well-planned hoax by 4chan, whose users were responsible for a number of fake Twitter campaigns listed here.
While most people either dismissed the hashtag, or ignored it, some readers were lured into heated debate about the fake campaign. There were even a handful of users who expressed support for the idea. Additional debate revolved around the supposed promulgation of the trend by feminists who were “tricked” by the hashtag.
One user posted a screen shot which appeared to be 4Chan’s planning of the fake Twitter campaign.
#EndFathersDay is 4Chan trolling again #TheMoreYouKnow #PSA pic.twitter.com/C4Z0cOLYuZ — Young Robert Zimmer (@Pisat3l) June 13, 2014
According to Inquisitr, who first reported the hoax, the campaign picked up steam after it was tweeted out by rapper Talib Kweli.
An elaborate internet hoax in October 2013 suggested that Miley Cyrus had contracted HIV.
The #CureForMiley campaign circulated on most social media sites and appeared to be the work of anonymous 4chan users.
On Twitter, the hashtag #CureForMiley trended, along with a fake image of a supposed tweet by Liam Hemsworth.
A Facebook page named CureForMiley appeared on October 2, 2013 with the “About” section stating:
THIS PAGE IS TO SUPPORT MILEY THROUGH THE HARD TIMES SHE MUST BE GOING THROUGH WITH HER ILLNESS(HIV+)
Images of fake news articles about Cyrus’ alleged HIV infection were also produced, such as the following fake CNN article, which began:
Famous recording artist and actress Miley Cyrus has been recognized to have AIDS. The discovery was due to a falling out between Lukasz Gottwald and herself – The Co-producer of controversial music video, ‘Wrecking Ball’, furiously claimed that Miley had ‘the package’, a slang term for the illness. This act of rage on Cyrus was due to Miley’s closed disapproval of the video and it’s content.
The writing style of the fake CNN article was clearly not up to professional standards published by mainstream media outlets. The article, which was riddled with grammatical errors, never existed on CNN.com
According to BuzzFeed, anonymous users from 4chan were responsible for the hoax. A document was linked which claims to cite reasons for the hoax:
Convince the masses that Miley Cyrus contracted AIDS.
>>Why, and how we think it will be believable.
1. Miley’s relationship with Liam Hemsworth ended for reasons not speculated. We can make a story that he left her after he told him of her condition.
2. It can be used to explain her irrational sexuality on stage and in her music videos, she doesnt have much time to live, she wants to get the most out of life, and feels she is doing so through her dancing.
3. Miley changed from a loveable character and singer, to a seducive sex loving drug user, We can say this was caused by a depression that followed her finding out of this condition.
>>How we do it.
We start making pictures that say “Cure For Miley” and make it seem as tho alot of people are pooling in money to help her get treated.
We tweet about the hastag #CureForMiley
We create a facebook page named /CureforMiley
Use whatever resources you have available.
Let’s get this going.
In January 2013, a sinister prank trended online which attempted to fool fans into cutting themselves in support of Justin Bieber, who was in the spotlight for alleged pot use at the time.
Several variations trended, such as #cuttingforbeiber, #cut4bieber, and #cutforbieber. Photos of self-mutilation were grabbed from the web and posted to give the illusion that a real movement was under way in support of the teen idol.
IB Times and HipHopWired were both fooled by the fake posts and reported it to be a real movement.
Read more about #cuttingforbeiber here.
Almost exactly one year after the #cutforbieber hashtag trended on Twitter, a similar #CutForLiam hashtag appeared in January 2014.
The #cutforliam hoax was allegedly designed for fans to show support for One Direction signer Liam Payne by cutting themselves.
Payne supposedly needed support after coming under fire for defending the controversial statements made by the Duck Dynasty patriarch.
Some Twitter users posted photos allegedly showing fans who had cut themselves. Most of these photos, however, were the same ones used for the #cutforbieber hoax of 2013.
The hoax was offensive to those who engaged in self-mutilation, or had loved ones those who had engaged in the practice. The phrase “self harm isn’t a joke” was used by several Twitter users who didn’t find humor in the hoax.
It wasn’t clear if anyone actually cut themselves because of the #cutforliam hoax.
A 4chan prank in October 2012 attempted to fool fans into believing that Justin Bieber had cancer, and that people were shaving their heads as a show of support.
Doctored photos were posted of celebrities and the Entertainment Tonight website. These were intended to trick fans into thinking that people were actually shaving their heads in support of Justin Bieber.
The Biebs never commented on the prank, and obviously never had cancer.
Read more about the #baldforbieber hoax here.
Yet another internet hoax by 4chan in November 2014 had some readers under the impression that there was a risk of contracting Ebola by consuming or handling Doritos.
4chan users organized this viral hoax, which asserted that Ebola could be found in bags of Doritos, and the hashtag #ebolaindoritos trended on Twitter after the hoax began. Pranksters posted fake news stories along with fake social media screen shots with the aim of convincing some users that the threat was real.
The claim regarding Ebola existing in bags of Doritos was completely false, but 4chan had some social media users convinced.
Oh no!please tell me this is fake, I love doritos #EbolaInDoritos pic.twitter.com/XVIihan43k
— Justin holcomb (@tennaciousJ) November 3, 2014
Frito Lay Response
Frito Lay took to social media to quash the rumors about Ebola in Doritos. On Monday November 3, 2014, they sent out the tweet below:
Fan alert! Internet rumors associating Ebola with one of our brands are FALSE. Pls RT. #Doritos
— Frito-Lay N. America (@Fritolay) November 3, 2014
A spokesman was asked by the NY Daily news about the hoax, and referred to it as an “insensitive prank.”
After the bizarre hashtag #AlexFromTarget went viral in November 2014, a marketing company appeared to take credit – but later backed off from that assertion.
When the innocuous photo of a handsome young Target employee named Alex performing the mundane task of bagging items went viral for no apparent reason, social media lit up with a range of responses from ridicule to parody to accolades.
Alex From Target, for whatever reason, was an overnight sensation. Social media analysts attempted to make sense of the #AlexFromTarget frenzy. Amid speculation, a marketing company named Breakr came forward and seemed to take credit for Alex from Target, indicating to CNET that the whole thing was a marketing campaign they created.
Others media outlets such as BuzzFeed and Yahoo ran with the CNET story, proclaiming the entire thing a hoax.
Those close to the story, including Alex himself, fired back.
Apparently there is a company trying to take credit for how the pic taken of me went viral.
— DGM_Alex (@acl163) November 5, 2014
My family and I have never heard of this company. — DGM_Alex (@acl163) November 5, 2014
The Twitter account – which was cited as the source of the #AlexFromTarget sensation with a tweet on November 4, 2014 – also noted that there was no association with Breakr.
i dont work for breakr wtf i dont even know what it is — ? (@auscalum) November 4, 2014
CNET, BuzzFeed, and Yahoo all updated their original stories, noting that the Breaker representative backed away from claims of responsibility, stating that #AlexFromTarget was merely “a chain reaction that Breakr happened to be a part of.” It would appear that #AlexFromTarget was legit after all.
In a LinkedIn post which read more like a disclaimer, Breakr also clarified their original statements, noting no affiliation to Alex or the Twitter user who first popularized the photo:
Abbie (@auscalum) and Alex Lee (@acl163) were never employed by Breakr. Aside from Abbie being a follower and tweeting the photo, we jumped on it with the hashtag #AlexFromTarget
16 year old Alex Lee from Dallas appeared on Ellen – wearing his Target badge – to discuss his new-found fame. He said a manager showed him the ubiquitous photo online, and he was unaware at that time that his image was in the process of going viral. “And then about an hour later, these random girls I’ve never met before came in and showed me my Twitter page, and it had like 5000 more followers. And I was just really confused.”
Although a marketing company originally seemed to take credit for the #AlexFromTarget sensation, they have backed off of those original statements, noting that they were participants, not creators of the viral hashtag.
The hashtag #AlexFromTarget was tweeted nearly a million times in the first 24 hours.
3. #SaveMyInstagram / #SaveMyIG2014
The hashtag #savemyig2014 went viral in March 2014 with fears that Instagram accounts would be deleted unless a specific photo was shared.
The “Save My Instagram 2014” hoax circulated in several forms. Below is one popular version:
Many people are seeing “We’re sorry, we cannot provide News at this time” when they refresh their news feed. This is because The Instagram Council is deleting many accounts due to money loss, Repost this and hashtag #SaveMyIG2014 to let the Instagram council know that you are an active account!
The above hoax is reminiscent of older Facebook hoaxes which asked users to share a status to confirm their accounts were active.
A few points to note:
- Instagram Council. It isn’t clear what “The Instagram Council” was supposed to be, but no official announcements were ever made from Instagram – or an entity known as “The Instagram Council.”
- Weak grammar. Note the use of a comma instead of a period after the word “loss” along with inconsistent use of capital letters for “The Instagram Council.”
- Instagram Announcements. Instagram issues announcements from its official blog. To see a recent announcement from Instagram, take a look at this one which introduces video on the social media site. Instagram announcements are always signed by a company executive.
- Money Loss. Instagram is owned by Facebook, which was certainly not in financial trouble in early 2014.
This hoax was a more successful re-hashing of a similar #dontdelete hoax which trended a year earlier.
An elaborate internet hoax attempted to convince women that feminine hygiene products were a form of oppression. This particular hashtag went viral not once, but twice, in early 2014 and again in early 2015.
While the concept of “free bleeding” predates the 4chan hoax, the two viral appearances of the hashtag sparked debate from those who took the subject seriously along with those who didn’t.
Read our full report on the viral free bleeding hoaxes.
A discussion of The Dress, which went viral in February 2015, is beyond the scope of this article (but you can read our full coverage here). In what sparked nearly exasperated debate on both sides, the mere color of a woman’s dress became the subject of lively debate on social media. Was it white with gold lace, or blue with black lace? One wouldn’t think that such different color schemes would even be a matter of debate, but that is exactly what happened with The Dress. Several hashtags trended, such as #TheDress, #WhiteAndGold, and #DressGate.
Described in terms of a hoax, an optical illusion, and a matter of perception, #TheDress is still sometimes cited in debates regarding inane topics.
For those who kept score, the dress ended up being blue and black. The saturated lighting in the photo created a white and gold look in the eyes of some viewers.