Popular cultural icons are typically characterized by prestige, charm or accomplishment. Yet, it is an egg, lightly speckled in front of a white background, that holds the record for most likes on Instagram. It was posted on account @world_record_egg on Jan. 4 with no motive other than to dethrone the former record of 18 million likes held by Kylie Jenner’s pregnancy announcement. Receiving over 46 million likes and counting, the egg has caused an arguably enigmatic phenomena. While some would question why support such an arbitrary post, most would argue why not.
The humor of the 21st century is characterized by absurdism. Jokes are less based on personal anecdotes and more on universal understandings. This has been made possible through the advent of the Internet, and more particularly social media. Social media was created to connect people who wished to loosely keep in touch. Now, usage has evolved so that users follow and befriend people less out of a pursuit of a personal connection and more for access to the person’s content. Traditional uses of social media encourage sharing personal images and thoughts directly relating to the individual. Slowly, social media users have shifted to generating universal statements about life in contemporary society. It is a different type of connection.
Posts are less defined and descriptive, lending to humor that is more bizarre and absurd. Humorous Internet posts, broadly referred to as “memes,” started as images with Impact font captions in the early 2000s. Now, memes come in diverse forms and often without any words at all. Elements such as heavy audio and visual distortion are usually enough to evoke humor.
It does not take a unique experience, educational level or even cultural background to comprehend what an image of an egg is. It is a universally understood icon. The lack of meaning behind it does not render it meaningless, but rather gives it that much more universal power. No one can argue over something that makes no statement as all.
The post is not about the egg at all, but rather what it represents. The egg embodies the slow roll of social media toward absurdism. In a society saturated with social media, a trend toward absurdity makes the most sense. The Internet allows a global community to exist. The broader of a community, the more diverse of an audience, and therefore the greater need for universal symbols.
The ultimate gauge of camaraderie online is likes and comments. This type of online engagement acts as a source of validation and feedback, as well as the ultimate sign of a common truth. The more support a post gets, the more relevant it proves itself to be. A post going viral is a message from the collective Internet community that has endorsed it saying: We all agree.
While some could argue that the world record egg has no meaning, its status forces us to look behind the the dynamics and values of the 46 million member community that enabled it to make it to the top.