Last month, I received a funny and unexpected Instagram Direct Message. One of my friends sent me the link to an account titled @world_record_egg. At the time, the account had only one picture, a single brown egg with a white background. The caption below the picture reads: “Let’s set a world record together and get the most liked post on Instagram. Beating the current world record held by Kylie Jenner (18 million)!” More than a month later the egg has more than 53 million likes. It broke the record.
The egg itself is hilarious. It is entertaining to think that a single brown egg has more likes than a post by Kylie Jenner, one the most influential people on social media. Looking past the humor, the fact that about 5% of all monthly Instagram users (53 million / 1 billion), or roughly 0.7% of the world population (53 million / 7.5 billion), liked the same picture of an egg, represents an interesting phenomenon.
Are we collectively responding to the pervasive nature of social media? Basing quality of life and success on the number of likes our posts receive is a weird thing. Is Kylie Jenner the best person if she has the most liked picture on Instagram? Are we prioritizing external looks over character? The role of social media in society has been examined from many angles already. The egg adds a distinct dimension to the debate over the pros and cons of social media.
As social media becomes increasingly consequential in society and interaction, we may be entering a period of pushback. There are many benefits to social media, which allows people to connect with others across the world instantly and provides a space for creativity. Yet, as it becomes a more standard feature of the way we communicate, problems arise. As it becomes a platform to constantly compare ourselves to others, social media facilitates image obsession. Experiences are more about the picture than the reality; instragrammable is now defined in the dictionary.
The egg may be a sign of a self-awareness about our social media use and the understanding that, maybe, we are taking ourselves a little too seriously. Maybe we all think “likes” are stupid, but it’s too late now to do anything. Influencers are making vast sums of money posting ads in tropical locations. One of the most watched new Netflix documentaries exposes the FYRE Festival, a bad idea that became catastrophically worse, mostly because a group of models took some photos on one of Pablo Escobar’s island in the Bahamas.
During the Super Bowl, Hulu released a 30 second video compilation with the egg. The video portrays the same instagram-famous egg cracking and eventually breaking apart at the end, followed by the text: “The pressure of social media is getting to me. If you’re struggling, too, talk to someone” and simultaneously directing viewers to a link for Mental Health America.
Around the same time, news broke that the creators of the egg, which is named Eugene, are three British advertisers. In what they described as an “anomaly,” the egg may be a response to the developing interaction between humans and social media. However, Eugene, the creators say, is not done. The egg has a large following and the advertisers plan on spreading more positive information with collaborations like Hulu, as they told the New York Times.
Interestingly, the act of liking the egg had less to do with the actual post, but more with the implications of out-liking something else. In this case, Kylie Jenner. What does this say about our interaction with social media? Where do we go from here? What will be the next most-liked picture on instagram? I am not sure, but for now I’m glad that an egg became famous and it has good-intentions.
Eugene the egg has decidedly cemented its place as one of the more meaningful posts to appear on the internet. Somewhat regrettably, it has adopted a permanent place in my closet too. Caught up in the hype of the viral egg, I bought a plain black t-shirt which reads “I liked the egg” for way more than I would care to admit. Hopefully, Eugene is not just an “anomaly”. On a more serious note, increasing awareness about mental health and the plethora of other concerns on the internet could disseminate this crucial information on a huge scale.