Category: Social Opinion

7 Times Social Opinion Broke the Internet

In the beginning, the internet promised a worldwide forum for sharing ideas and perspectives. It did that, but it turns out that a lot of the social opinions we share are controversial, and our perspectives are surprisingly good at provoking years-long shouting matches between entrenched camps. These controversies have so far been a dime a dozen, but these seven examples from the history of the internet managed to set the online world on fire.

1. The Fine Bros attempt to trademark "React"

You may not have heard of the Fine Bros, but they're as close to superstardom as YouTube has yet produced. This would be no big deal, except that their success has been mainly in the "reaction" genre, where the two stars sit and watch other people's videos and occasionally make wry remarks.

 This didn't matter to the Fine Bros millions of fans until 2016, when they actually tried to trademark the word "react," which would potentially have forced every other reaction channel on YouTube to pay them royalties. Fortunately, even teenagers who will spend an hour watching other people watch videos have their limits, and after losing over 600,000 subscribers, the Fine Bros backed down.

2. Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality is the principle that internet service providers should treat every user the same, whether you're a private citizen or a huge media corporation. Every bit of data sent down the pipes gets routed in the same way, at the same speed, and at the same price. This is part of what keeps the internet a Wild West for data, so when the FCC started toying with the idea of allowing certain providers to charge extra for internet "fast lanes" in 2014, the internet went ballistic. Hundreds of thousands of users flooded the FCC public comment forum to complain, and the government eventually backed away from the controversial idea.

3, 4, & 5 Open File Sharing

This one is actually three cases, but they all follow a pattern. From about 2000 to 2004, Napster, Morpheus and LimeWire allowed users to share digital music and video files for free. This meant that the public at large would have access to new music and movies before their official release dates. The file-sharing sites' defense was the same in every case: that users were themselves responsible for complying with copyright laws, and the platforms had many legitimate uses that didn't violate copyright. After several blazing online rows, which at one point saw a 16-year-old girl sued for tens of thousands of dollars by Sony for downloading Britney Spears songs, the file sharing networks quietly folded.

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6. The Dress 🙄

So. . . was that dress blue-and-black, or was it white-and-gold? Back in early 2015, online communities were split and otherwise-happy families nearly came to blows over the issue of what color that dress was in reality. Some people said black-and-blue, while others inexplicably swore that it was white-and-gold. This ultimately came down to the assumptions your brain makes about the lighting in the secondhand store where the dress was photographed. If your brain thinks it's bright in there, you'll see the dress as dark-colored; if you assume the store was a bit dim, then your brain interprets the dress as being brightly colored. It was blue-and-black, by the way.


7. 6 ÷ 2(1+2) = ?

The best internet controversies are both deeply divisive and fundamentally ridiculous. By that standard, 6 ÷ 2(1+2) = ? was perfect. This meme spread across social media in countless Facebook posts and overly smug tweets, as people shared the, apparently impossible-to-solve equation and dared their soon-to-be ex-friends to try to get the right answer. At its heart, solving this equation hinges on knowing the proper mathematical order of operations, which you were expected to pick up in fifth grade. That made it all the more ridiculous as tens of thousands of people, all of whom were capable of using computers, tried solutions like "5" and "1.5," and even "33" in one case. (It's 9. The answer is 9.)

The internet can be a fun place sometimes, but there are thorns in that garden you need to be aware of. Every so often, aka all the time, an idea pops into the internet and propagates through multiple communities with all the speed an argument can generate. If you spend any time at all on the internet, sooner or later you're likely to get caught up in one of these shouting matches. We're not telling you to avoid these arguments altogether, but please remember while you're taking it all too seriously that the thing you temporarily care so much about will eventually get boring and be forgotten.

Learn more how social opinion shapes the internet here.


Maranda Jones

Marketing Director at SquareOffs #OnwardandUpward

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