Remember Kony 2012, the strange campaign against an African warlord that spiraled into its own sideshow of salacious updates after everyone and their brother urged you to watch the video now on Facebook and Twitter?
You probably do, as Kony 2012 — what the sketchy initiative eventually came to be called — was the single most viral thing this year. More than 87 million views of the lengthy film put forth by charity Invisible Children have been clocked thus far, beating out 2012’s other phenomenons like “Gangnam Style” as the biggest viral clip this year.
But as viral trends are measured, so too does the shelf-life of internet memes like Kony 2012, explains NPR. In a look at 2012’s viral biggies and the impact of memes like Kony 2012, NPR contends that even weighty trends like Kony 2012 — involving war crimes and child soldiers in Uganda — have a short cycle from support to acrimony.
YouTube’s trends manager, Kevin Allocca told the site:
“It wasn’t just lighthearted stuff capturing our momentary attention this year. A video about the central African warlord Joseph Kony started showing up on Facebook and Twitter in March. It took only a few days for ‘Kony 2012” to obliterate previous YouTube records, with 30 million views a day… But the backlash came faster, too. Between criticism and controversy, Kony 2012 basically vanished from the cultural conversation within a month.”
Alloca says the rapid rise and fall of interest in Kony 2012 may be indicative of a rapid, new lifecycle for viral material on the web:
“It really made me think about the velocity with which we’re operating right now… And the pace of popularity for some of these videos.”
Kony 2012 was just one of many viral clips this year, and you can read about the year in YouTube trends over here. Below, an infographic detailing the different viral phenoms of 2012, including Kony 2012.