New memes, viral videos and gifs appear so quickly that the very concept of a calendar year seems as archaic as pre-Weibo social media. So summarizing a year in online phenomena can only ever be – just like most of the Internet – an arbitrary collection of funny things. This year was fundamentally no different from the one preceding it, though some of the details changed. ‘APEC Blue’ became ‘Winter Olympics Blue;’ praise for the Facebook CEO’s Mandarin became scorn for the Xiaomi CEO’s English. Viral trends are fleeting and sure to be forgotten. But for one more time this year: Enjoy. Forget. Repeat.
Lots of things went viral this year, but some viruses are worse than others. Like how polio is worse than herpes.
1. Belly button challenge
In a collective act of unashamed narcissism, the belly button challenge saw Weibo users attempting to touch their own navel by reaching around their backs. It was, of course, a thinly veiled excuse for people to show off their slim bodies (which is actually more a sign of shoulder flexibility, but whatever).
It all began with Jackie Chan’s shampoo commercial: “...after filming, visual effects are added, the hair – duang! – becomes black, very shiny and very smooth,” he exclaimed. No one knows what ‘duang’ means, but that’s kind of the point. It soon spread across the web as a multi-purpose sound effect.
3. Me, my selfies and I
The following photographic masterpieces proved particularly popular: Xi Jinping with UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Manchester City footballer Sergio Aguero; Premier Li Keqiang with Indian PM Narendra Modi; Aibaba’s Jack Ma with French President François Hollande and assorted tycoons.
4. Brother Orange
This one had all the ingredients of viral gold: stolen goods, selfies in front of fruit trees and a nationwide hunt for the man with Matt Stopera’s phone. The Buzzfeed writer and a guy from Guangdong (forever known as Brother Orange) went global with their bromance. Heartwarming stuff.
5. The ‘magic bunny’
There are two important things to know about the Ili pika: it’s cute and it’s endangered. Awareness of the rarely sighted Chinese mammal spread throughout the net (albeit under the technically inaccurate name ‘magic bunny’) after it was profiled by National Geographic.
6. Wang Sicong
The son of China’s richest man was a constant source of fascination and controversy in 2015. Social media exploded when Wang gave his dog Apple Watches, when he spoke English with a British accent, and when he made vulgar comments about women. Thankfully, most reacted with outrage.