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    The Most Impactful Memes of 2020 / Time · Thursday, 21 January, 2021 - 17:26 · 15 minutes

You don’t need us to tell you that 2020 was a rollercoaster of intense emotions, from frustration to boredom to sadness to anger. You also don’t need us to tell you that memes helped many cope with this long, long year.

Memes were a force in 2020. A force to vent, a force to call for change, a force to find normalcy, a force for finding connection, more than ever, memes became a shared language that bridged gaps during lockdown, but also widened partisan splits. The Cheezburger Cat and Success Kid memes of a younger internet has matured into waves of jokes that betray a more biting, more cynical online community. The memes of 2020 reflected an internet that has become desensitized to the burning house around it and the phrase “this is fine” is more of a plea than a resignation. Memes, and the internet which spawns them, have been sharpened to a fine, sometimes desperate, point.
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At the same time, memes continue to exist as they always have: inclusive inside jokes and an entertaining shorthand for life’s very specific experiences. They still spark recognition and even community, whether people connect over COVID-19’s impact on mental health or about waiting to order coffee .

They also continue to be joyfully, immeasurably dumb. Look no further than when a picture of a carp blanketed most of Twitter earlier this month.

Through group chats, social media, oversharing coworkers and so many other ways, memes brought many together, pushed many apart and brought levity to extended crisis after extended crisis. So as 2020 comes to a close, we’ve rounded up some of the memes that captured the true essence of this unprecedented year—and left an indelible impression on the internet in their wake.

Bernie Sanders is once again asking

It seems safe to say that no one on the Bernie 2020 campaign team could’ve predicted that a December 2019 video of the then-Democratic presidential candidate candidly requesting donations while strolling down a snowy street would result in the screengrab that launched a thousand memes. But that’s exactly what became of a still from a fundraising ad featuring Sanders bundled up against the cold, asking his supporters for financial aid.

So many people were left wanting this year. And a snug Bernie, chapped in the winter cold, provided the perfect avatar to ask for help.

Going full Sue Sylvester mode

Glee ‘s six-season run may have ended in 2015, but you’d never know that from online memes. While it felt like someone was working to sabotage all our lives from behind the scenes, it’s easy to see why Sue Sylvester—McKinley High’s ultimate saboteur and played by the legendary Jane Lynch—enjoyed a resurgence in meme popularity.

The ruthless cheer coach striving to create the most toxic environment possible was a full 2020 mood in itself, but it wasn’t always an accusation. While many used Sue’s threat as a way to vilify those seeking destruction, the meme was also often used in the first person by those gleefully bringing a bit more chaos into the world.

Animal Crossing to the rescue

Weeks after New York City shut down, Nintendo released the perfect game to play in the middle of a pandemic. Animal Crossing is a game that relies on players to have ample time to spend collecting, decorating and personalizing things only to show them to other people who have collected, decorated and personalized their own life away. The game is a deeply relaxing, pleasant experience , full of cute characters and charming moments. Millions of people, many of whom claimed not to be regular video game players, dug into crafting their island and learned what it feels like to be deeply in debt to a tanuki.

Though there was no single meme that swept the internet, Animal Crossing inspired multiple riffs, one offs, subgenres and fandoms based around the game. This lovely game allowed an escape in the game and in the memes it helped create.

Pope Francis gives his blessing

On the internet, nothing is sacred. So it’s no surprise that the concept of Photoshopping the Pope offering up a communion wafer in religious reverence took off on Twitter. Even though people have been editing this particular picture since it first appeared online in 2013, Twitter users put a new spin on the meme by employing the social media site’s tiled image format to make it look like Pope Francis was holding everything from Simba to the Twilight DVDs to an Auntie Anne’s pretzel.

How it started vs. how it’s going

No matter what you thought 2020 would bring when the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, it probably wasn’t a global pandemic that would send the world into lockdown for months on end. Of course, that’s why a meme format making fun of scenarios where things don’t quite work out how you expect was pretty much universally relatable this year—even if it did start out as a cutesy way to brag about your relationship .

Though this meme can be seen a riff on My Plans vs. 2020 , it wasn’t only used to denounce the year. In a refreshingly positive twist, for many this meme became a way to showcase how far they had come in learning skills, achieving goals, sharing childhood pictures or even proudly showing off their identity.

The trolley problem

It may be grim, but so is 2020. The trolley problem is a famous thought experiment that asks people to weigh in on the ethical dilemma of whether it’s better to let a runaway trolley take its course and kill a group of people, or divert the trolley and kill only one to save the others. Finding new ways to frame this problem, with the height of internet gallows humor, became a staple of online coronavirus discourse this year.

The meme was often used to highlight binary choices that many believed were not binary choices at all. Can the world’s richest country afford to help keep the economy afloat, or should businesses stay open even if hundreds of thousands of people die? Is wearing a face mask protecting people, those they love and their community, or is it a complete loss of personal liberty?

Trolly problem memes questioned the very nature of these choices, and are meant to highlight the absurdity of limited thinking.

Nature is healing

As carbon emissions dropped in the early part of the year as COVID-19 brought much of the world to a screeching halt, people began posting heartwarming photos and videos of animals supposedly returning to urban areas . Many of those viral posts turned out to be misleading . But on the bright side, they did set Twitter users up for one of the best parody-driven meme formats of the year: “nature is healing, we are the virus.”

D.W. through the fence

Where summer 2016 gave us the Arthur clenching his fist meme , spring 2020 gave us a resurgence in popularity of the D.W. peering longingly through a fence meme.

Scenes from the beloved ’90s PBS children’s show Arthur have long been fodder for relatable online jokes, but perhaps never more so than when people began missing the everyday outings—from getting their nails done to grabbing margs with friends—that make life enjoyable while staying home amid coronavirus. The FOMO is so, so real and, in the simplicity of the image, many immediately recognized their own yearning.

Everything is cake

In July, BuzzFeed’s food website Tasty shared a video compilation of a chef cutting into a number of hyper-realistic cakes decorated to look like everyday objects, including a Croc shoe, roll of toilet paper and potted plant. The internet quickly arrived at the conclusion that, in a year when nothing else made sense, it was entirely possible for anything at all to actually to turn out to be cake.

Collective “everything is cake” anxiety took over, and nothing has been the same online since. This post is probably cake.

Play how you feel

At the end of the summer, Nathan Apodaca reflected our own collective vibe with nothing but a skateboard, some cranberry juice and “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. A short TikTok showed him skating down the street, taking a swig of juice and singing the words “it’s only right for you to play the way you feel.” It was one of the most beautiful moments in 2020.

On TikTok alone, the video received over 77 million views. It caught the attention of Fleetwood Mac co-founder Mick Fleetwood. It sent “Dreams” to the very top of iTunes . It spawned a “Dreams” challenge. And gave us all a few seconds to chill this year.


@420doggface208 had it right. Dreams and Cranberry just hits different. #Dreams #CranberryDreams #FleetwoodMac

♬ Dreams (2004 Remaster) – Fleetwood Mac

Four Seasons Total Landscaping

One of the most bizarre stories that played out on the national stage, which is saying something, happened on Nov. 7, the day most major news networks called Joe Biden the winner of the presidential election. That morning, Rudy Giuliani held a press conference in the parking lot of the Four Seasons Total Landscaping company, located in Northeast Philadelphia between a sex shop and a crematorium.

At 9:35 a.m. that day, President Trump tweeted that there would be a meeting held at the Four Seasons, which many took to be the hotel chain. Ten minutes later, he tweeted again , saying “Big press conference today in Philadelphia at Four Seasons Total Landscaping,” which, no offense to the business, many in the press had never heard of.

Thanks to a tweet from Philly’s Four Seasons hotel, it seemingly came to light that someone in the Trump camp had mistaken the family-owned landscaping business, for the luxury downtown hotel. While the Trump campaign denied there was a mistake, that stopped few people from assuming that the whole press conference, bafflingly held adjacent to a busy, noisy highway, was a huge self-own.

Don’t worry about what’s in the vaccine

As misinformation surrounding the recently introduced COVID-19 vaccines has ramped up—a development that’s led to increased vaccine hesitancy among Americans—some pro-vaxxers have turned to memes to comfort those afraid to get vaccinated.

One increasingly popular online bit asks people to reconsider their thoughts on the vaccine if they’ve ever participated in a number of common experiences that could potentially have more worrisome side effects.

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    In These Tumultuous Times, Sea Shanty TikToks Have Suddenly Become a Port in the Storm / Time · Wednesday, 13 January, 2021 - 22:54 · 3 minutes

While 2021 has already served up plenty of wretched bombshells, the best surprise of the past two weeks might be TikTok’s biggest new trend: sea shanties. As the world hurtles head-first into 2021, sea shanties are turning into a safe harbor for social media users looking to take their mind off the events of the day with some (very) old-timey entertainment.

It all started when Scottish musician Nathan Evans recorded a video performing a remarkably catchy rendition of “Wellerman,” a 19th century shanty of New Zealand origin. It blew up online, garnering over four million views on TikTok alone. From there, it wasn’t long before other users were piggybacking on the trend by duetting the whaling tune alongside Evans or debuting sea shanty performances of their own. Thus, #ShantyTok was born.

Despite the fact that the recent resurgence of sea shanties is owed entirely to the internet, their modern appeal certainly harkens back to their original purpose: synchronizing individual efforts to achieve a common goal.

In centuries past, the purpose of these call-and-response work songs was, of course, to maintain a ship crew’s focus on safely navigating often dangerous waters. Whether the task was rowing, hoisting sails or hauling nets, the hand-over-hand beat of sea shanties was intended to help sailors keep time with each other.

But amid a global pandemic that has kept many people at home and isolated for nearly a year, sea shanties can help foster a sense of community during a time when many are feeling lonely. As expertly noted by Vulture ‘s Kathryn VanArendonk , at their heart, sea shanties are “unifying, survivalist songs, designed to transform a huge group of people into one collective body, all working together to keep the ship afloat.”

They’re also undeniable earworms.

Thanks to TikTok’s duet feature, which allows users to build on fellow TikTokers’ videos with their own additions, Evans’ solo rendition of “Wellerman” has been transformed into a complex split-screen harmony, complete with multiple vocal parts and instrumental accompaniment. It’s a group project that everyone in the video worked on individually, which makes its success all the more impressive.

Affirming that the traditional shanty format possesses a timeless quality, some people have even begun turning popular songs of today, like Smash Mouth’s “All Star” and Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP,” into sea shanties in their own right.

A video of one reluctant sea shanty fan discovering the allure of these nautical ditties has also gone viral. All it took was a car ride and an inspirational brother.

The 45-second clip perfectly showcases how shanty sing-alongs have a way of drawing others in to the fold, or, as one commenter puts it, “I guess it makes sense when you think [about how] the artform originated as a way to provide pleasure, connection and entertainment during periods of sustained social isolation.”

So if you’re in need of a distraction amid everything going on right now, #ShantyTok is here for you. Keep calm and shanty on.

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    Rescue Animals Are TIME’s 2020 Pet of the Year / Time · Wednesday, 9 December, 2020 - 16:00 · 8 minutes

“In the end, I’ve got antibodies and a dog named Fauci.”

That’s how Los Angeles-based lawyer Kari Milone says she’s choosing to look back on the eight months that she spent trying to adopt a rescue dog in 2020—a time period during which she not only lost her second dog in less than a year, but also survived COVID-19.

Named after Dr. Anthony Fauci because “he has a white coat and was abandoned during COVID,” Fauci the dog is one of approximately 3.2 million shelter animals that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates is adopted each year. This year, demand for animal adoption is skyrocketing: as stay-at-home orders were issued across the U.S. in March in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the ASPCA shared that according to industry data from PetPoint , animal welfare organizations across the country saw a spike in adoptions during the second half of March, with an estimated national adoption rate of 58% at the beginning of the month, jumping to 85% by the end of the month.

Fauci Kari Milone Fauci

“We’ve seen an incredibly compassionate response from people willing to open their homes to foster and adopt vulnerable shelter animals during this period of uncertainty and applaud them for stepping up so heroically for animals in need,” says ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker. “This unprecedented compassionate response from communities across the country to support their local shelters reflects widespread appreciation of the invaluable role pets play in our lives.”

Despite fears that stay-at-home orders would result in shelters being inundated with animals due to an increase in abandoned pets, officials from rescue organizations like Chicago Animal Care and Control (C ACC) and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA) say the opposite has been true.

When stay-at-home orders were set into motion, we were anxious about the possibility of seeing an increase in intake requests and a decrease in transfers and adoptions,” says CACC Public Information Officer Jennifer Schlueter. “We were so pleased to experience the exact opposite of what we first feared…The demand for foster and adoptive animals coupled with a decrease in intake led us to be down to around 30 animals for a while in the late spring and early summer.”

In Los Angeles, spcaLA President Madeline Bernstein says the shelter is adopting pets out as fast as they come in. “This is true across the country,” she says. “The animal shelters have been emptied of adoptable animals through either adoptions or fosters, because of what a good time it is, when families are home together during lockdown, to work with a new pet. And it’s also a hedge against loneliness.”

It’s a trend that doesn’t surprise longtime pet owners like Caitlin McCarthy, who understands firsthand how comforting animals can be, especially in times of stress or isolation. After her dog, a Westie named Oscar, passed away in September, McCarthy, a teacher for Worcester Public Schools in Massachusetts, says she wasn’t able to last long without a fur baby.

“This pandemic has been a very isolating situation,” she says. “I was grateful to have the time with Oscar because his health had started to fail when the schools shut down, so I was able to be with him. But after he passed away, I really noticed not having him in the house because he was a member of the family. I’m working from home. I’m not going out. I really missed having a dog.”

So when she saw that Northern New England Westie Rescue Inc. had shared some photos on Facebook of a few dogs who were up for adoption, she jumped at the opportunity. “I immediately sent them a message,” she says. “It wasn’t even something I thought about. I just did it. Because I knew. I saw the little faces and I knew one of them had to be mine.”

About a week later, McCarthy was meeting a volunteer driver in the parking lot of an Olive Garden to pick up Finbarr, a 10-year-old Westie who had been rescued from a Kansas “puppy mill.” As soon as she held him, she says she knew they had a connection.

“I had gravitated toward the photo of him that [the rescue] had posted on Facebook. There was just something very soulful about his eyes. So I told them I’d be happy with any dog, but if I could meet him, I think he’s the dog for me,” she says. “I went to pick him up and they opened up the back of the car and there he was. I was so excited and he was shy, as you can imagine. But as soon as I picked him up, he licked me right on the cheek. It’s like he knew, like he was saying, ‘You’re gonna be my girl, aren’t you?’ And the answer was yes.”

Finbarr before and after Caitlin McCarthy Finbarr before being adopted (L) and after (R)

Since arriving at his new home on Oct. 26, Finbarr (a name that McCarthy says she chose because her late mother loved it) has blossomed before McCarthy’s eyes. “He was used as a puppy mill breeder for 10 years. His whole life was in a cage. He didn’t know what a toy was. He had never had a name. He had never been outside to play. So I’m teaching him all those things,” she says. “And it’s very healing for me too. He’s like furry evidence of hope during a very troubling time. When you see a dog that’s survived the most horrific circumstances and he keeps getting better and better every day, how can you not feel hopeful about life in the future?”

The emotional support that pets can offer their owners is more crucial than ever in this moment, says Rachael Silverman, a psychologist specializing in couple and family psychology who often prescribes emotional support animals for patients. “With so much uncertainty and instability, animals provide people, especially children, with unconditional love, support, and comfort as well as serve as a distraction,” she says. “I had one 8-year-old patient who told me how she shared her adopted cat with her grandmother so her grandmother would have a piece of her with her and wouldn’t feel lonely because she couldn’t visit her.”

Staying at home amid the pandemic has also spurred many first-time pet owners to take the rescue plunge, and in doing so, discover how much emotional heavy lifting animals can be capable of doing. Since adopting their dog Nana, a 6-year-old boxer mix, from Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue in April, Crystal Kayiza and Peter Quandt have come to learn that she has an uncanny knack for lifting spirits.

“She’s such a joy to have and is really attuned to how people are feeling. I think everyone says this about their dog, but she’s definitely acutely aware of when someone’s having a bad day,” Kayiza says. “She’s really low energy and just wants to cuddle up with people and hang out. I think what’s been needed a lot during this time is being able to take a break from staring at screens and just sit on the floor with my dog for a bit.”

Crystal Kayiza Tina Gibble Nana

Of course, it’s not just dogs providing these much-needed moments of levity. When Elise Healy and her partner realized that they wouldn’t be able to take a trip to France that they had planned for March to celebrate finishing grad school, they decided to adopt a new cat instead. They ended up rescuing Poe, a black domestic short hair from Seattle Area Feline Rescue , who, along with their other cat Keaton, has helped them cope with spending the year at home.

“[Poe’s] crazy. He likes to be chased around the house and to play and will randomly jump into our laps and hang out with us. He falls off of his cat tower, often. I don’t think I can adequately explain how wild and hilarious he is,” Healy says. “It breaks up the day to be sitting at your desk working and bored and then, you know, suddenly have a box moving around the house because he’s gotten into it and can’t get out.”

Poe Elise Healy Poe

2021 looks to be a big year for shelter pets, too: In January, a shelter dog will take up residence in the White House for the first time ever when President-elect Joe Biden moves in with his dog Major, a German shepherd who the Bidens adopted in 2018 from the Delaware Humane Association (DHA) . It will be a landmark day for supporters of “adopt, don’t shop,” a growing movement that encourages people to adopt pets from shelters and rescue groups instead of purchasing them from commercial breeders.

“Our staff and our volunteers are super excited about Major going to the White House mainly because it highlights the important work we do of finding great homes for dogs and cats. It’s like, if one of our DHA adoptees is good enough for the White House, it’s good enough for your home, right?” says DHA Executive Director Patrick Carroll. “And it’s not just DHA. It’s highlighting adoption for all the shelters in Delaware and throughout the country. I think having a shelter dog go to the White House is really going to help with that awareness.”

That Major and the Bidens’ other dog, Champ, are headed to the White House will also mark the return of the time-honored tradition of presidential pets. “Americans are majority pet owners,” says Andrew Hager, Historian-in-Residence of the Presidential Pet Museum . “We kind of expect that from our presidents and we’ve gotten that for the most part because the presidents come from the American people and that’s part of our culture.”

The Bidens are reportedly planning on bringing a cat along, too. Perhaps they, like so many other Americans, have been bitten by the pet adoption bug. Milone, for one, says that even though it’s only been a few weeks since Fauci came home, his presence has already made one thing clear to her: despite the challenges she faced the first time around, she wants to rescue another dog—and soon. “The only thing that I’ve become absolutely certain about is that I will get another rescue,” she says. “I need a month to get good with [Fauci], so that he and I know each other really well. Then I’ll get a second one.”

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    Facebook Shuts Down Large Pro-Trump ‘Stop the Steal’ Group for Spreading Election Misinformation and Calling for Violence / Time · Thursday, 5 November, 2020 - 22:18 · 2 minutes

Facebook has officially shut down “Stop the Steal,” a pro-Trump group which had amassed over 364,000 members in less than 48 hours, for promoting election misinformation regarding ongoing vote counts.

With protests over the ongoing tally of votes sweeping through a number of U.S. cities, Facebook tells TIME that it removed the group on Thursday over “worrying calls for violence.”

“In line with the exceptional measures that we are taking during this period of heightened tension, we have removed the group ‘Stop the Steal,’ which was creating real-world events,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “The group was organized around the delegitimization of the election process, and we saw worrying calls for violence from some members of the group.”

The group, which appeared to be linked to the pro-Trump organization Women for America First as well as the Tea Party, was created in the wake of President Donald Trump falsely claiming that he had defeated Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden during a speech he delivered from the East Room of the White House after 2 a.m. ET on Wednesday morning.

As state and local election officials continued to count ballots across the country in the days after Election Day, Trump continued to post false and misleading tweets , in which he made baseless allegations about voter fraud in key states. Many of these tweets were flagged by Twitter for containing disputed or misleading information. The description of the “Stop the Steal” group on Facebook seemed to reference Trump’s claims.

“Democrats are scheming to disenfranchise and nullify Republican votes. It’s up to us, the American People, to fight and to put a stop to it,” the page read. “Along with President Trump, we will do whatever it takes to ensure the integrity of this election for the good of the nation.”

Posts on the page were rife with misinformation, including unsubstantiated claims that election workers were throwing out ballots or that voters in Maricopa County in Arizona were encouraged to vote with Sharpies that would make their ballots illegible.

The “Stop the Steal” movement has also spread to Twitter, with some pro-Trump users tagging their posts with the corresponding hashtag.

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    ‘Everybody Needs a Break.’ Fleetwood Mac Skateboarder Reflects on His Viral Fame and Helping People Chill Out for a Bit / Time · Friday, 9 October, 2020 - 20:19 · 4 minutes

Less than two weeks ago, using the words cranberry juice , skateboarding and Fleetwood Mac in the same sentence might have only seemed possible in a game of Mad Libs. But thanks to Nathan Apodaca, or as he’s known on TikTok, 420doggface208 , they’re now synonymous with one of the best viral videos of 2020.

The Sept. 25 clip —which has racked up over 35 million views on TikTok alone—features Apodaca filming himself leisurely skateboarding down a highway while sipping Ocean Spray cran-raspberry juice straight from the bottle and lip-syncing to Fleetwood Mac’s classic 1977 song “Dreams.” (The song h as since captured its biggest streaming week ever and shot to No. 1 on iTunes .)

There are no special effects or hidden messages in the video. It’s simply a study in “good vibes only.” But as far as Apodaca’s concerned, that’s the reason it’s resonated so strongly with people.

“It’s a time in the world right now where everybody needs a break from everything that’s going on,” he says. “This video took them to a place where they could watch something and just chill and vibe out.”

When he posted the TikTok—which he filmed in one take—on his way to work at Circle Valley Produce, a potato processing plant in Idaho Falls, Idaho, that Friday morning, Apodaca had no idea how much sharing his good vibes with the world would end up changing his life. In fact, he says he almost didn’t post the video at all.

“I was getting ready to post but then I didn’t think I was going fast enough [in it],” he says. “[I thought] everybody was going to laugh at me and be like, ‘Oh look, he’s scared to go fast.’ But then I liked the way it looked. It was smooth. So I was like, I might as well just post it and see what happens in an hour or two.”

By the end of the work day, Apodaca says the video had already broken one million views—a mark hit far, far quicker than any of his previous videos. But it wasn’t until he started to get messages from his mom and aunts saying they had seen it that he knew he truly had a hit on his hands. “When I started getting notifications from my mom and everybody, I was like, ‘OK…what’s going on here?'” he says. “It was crazy.”

In the days since, Apodaca’s video has inspired others, including Mick Fleetwood , the rock band’s eponymous co-founder, to take part in the newly-minted “Dreams” Challenge by recreating the iconic clip.

“When Mick did it, that was insane. My mom was like, ‘Do you know who he is? Do you realize what just happened?'” says Apodaca, noting that he was indoctrinated into the Fleetwood fandom at an early age. “[My mom and aunts] are beyond fanatics. They’re the ones who introduced me to them growing up.”

But viral fame has altered Apodaca’s life in ways that go beyond online notoriety and being recognized at his local Walmart. Thanks to Venmo, PayPal and Cash App donations from his fans, or as he calls them, his “soldiers,” Apodaca has received over $20,000 in recent weeks.

“The highest donation was $200,” he says. “I was like, how can somebody be sitting at home and just say, ‘I’m going to throw this dude $200,’ you know? Before, I would’ve had to work at the warehouse for three or four days for that. So it’s a blessing. I thank everybody for that. I mean, there are no words.”

His merch line , which he started on his own prior to any of this, is also earning him some extra cash. “The good thing is that I don’t have to make [the merch] anymore. I’d been making my own beanies,” he says. “I bought an embroidery machine and got a four-hour tutorial from [my girlfriend’s] niece on how to use it…The next day, I got some good quality beanies, figured out the machine and started pushing those myself.”

After giving his mom $5,000 and buying his dad a truck, Apodaca, who’s been living in an RV in his brother’s front yard, is now looking to make a down payment on a house. “I’m talking to an Idaho realtor,” he says. “He’s doing his best to get me into a place.”

On Tuesday, Ocean Spray also gifted Apodaca with a new truck of his own (the bed of which was filled with his favorite juice) to replace the unreliable ride that forced him to skateboard to work in the first place.

“Sometimes my car just shuts off if I turn or hit the gas a certain way and then it won’t start unless I get a jump,” he says. [The morning I filmed the video], it went out and I was like, I’m not going to sit here and wait to flag somebody down. So I grabbed my board—I always have it with me in the car just in case—and my juice and I started heading to work.”

Looking ahead, Apodaca says he’s just excited to see what opportunities the next year brings—whether that means “relaxing and chilling” or potentially collaborating with Travis Scott .

“I’m hoping for good things,” he says. “I’ve never even been on a plane. So it’s an exciting adventure, and I’m just ready to go.”

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    Here’s the Buzz on the Fly in Mike Pence’s Hair at the Vice Presidential Debate / Time · Thursday, 8 October, 2020 - 04:49 · 2 minutes

Here’s the thing: 2020 is hard and there hasn’t been a ton of joy to bring around smiles. People have been grasping for any little thing that brings them happiness and lightens the moment.

Which is part of the reason why when a fly landed on Vice President Mike Pence’s head during the vice presidential debate on Wednesday night, everyone buzzed about it.

Watch it come in for the landing:

This wasn’t just a short visit either. The little guy hung on for a while. (For about two minutes and two seconds. Yes we timed it, you’re welcome.)

People watch the debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris outside a tavern in San Diego, Calif., on Oct. 7, 2020. Mike Blake—Reuters People watch the debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris outside a tavern in San Diego, Calif., on Oct. 7, 2020.

If Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, or moderator Susan Page noticed, they did not say anything, but they were likely very focused on what Pence was actually saying .

It’s hard to separate the moment from Pence’s words: At the time, Pence was calling it an “insult” to law enforcement to presume that systemic racism and bias against Black people by police exist. The Trump Administration has repeatedly touted law and order instead of trying to empathize with the racial justice protests that have been widespread this year, even as that systemic racism has repeatedly been laid bare, including with the recent deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

Read more: Mike Pence’s Vice Presidential Debate Lecture to Kamala Harris Isn’t Likely to Help Trump With Women

But obviously, people outside the room immediately took note of what was happening, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who tweeted that the “election is fly-ing by. Make sure to make a plan to vote.” The Biden campaign immediately saw an opportunity to fundraise and swooped in.

A Twitter account named Mike Pence’s Fly had more than 78,000 followers on Twitter shortly after the debate ended. Its Twitter bio was “I’m a fly.”

Read more: The Biggest Moments of the Vice Presidential Debate

People were already speculating about who would be cast as the fly on Saturday Night Live alongside Beck Bennett as Pence.

And of course, there were many, many, many puns.

Thank you, fly, for helping the debate fly by.

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    ‘I Can’t Put All My Eggs in One Basket.’ Here’s What Creators Think of Instagram’s TikTok-Style ‘Reels’ / Time · Wednesday, 5 August, 2020 - 22:38 · 10 minutes

When it comes to buzz, the viral video app TikTok has been hard to beat in 2020’s social media scene. But now, Instagram has entered the chat.

On Thursday, the Facebook-owned property officially launched Instagram Reels in the U.S. and 49 other countries. Reels is Instagram’s answer to the short-form video style that’s swept the internet, like on the since-shuttered Vine, ephemeral Snapchat and current behemoth TikTok, which recently topped 2 billion downloads. Much like TikTok, Reels offers users a suite of creative tools to splice together 15-second videos with customizable music, text, special effects and scene-stitching technology, as well as a dedicated way to discover and share those clips. With Reels, Instagram—with its billion-plus monthly users—is hoping to bulk up its piece of the social media puzzle, adding to its arsenal of 15-second snippets on the ephemeral Stories, minute-long traditional grid videos and longer-form video hosted on IGTV and Instagram Live.

“We see Reels as us responding to what the community has already been doing, already been asking for,” Instagram Director of Product Tessa Lyons-Laing told TIME.

Instagram’s hope is no doubt that TikTok’s users will flock to its new offering and leave its rival behind. But nearly a dozen creators who spoke with TIME say they’re planning to experiment with Reels while maintaining their presence on TikTok. After getting burned by investing their time and talents heavily on ill-fated platforms before, creators are hungry for options to establish their followings. Their consensus: when it comes to social platforms, the more, the merrier.

Instagram Reels

Reels is launching globally just as TikTok, the giant of short video with 800 million monthly users, is facing a complex web of concerns. In the past week, U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to ban TikTok from operating in the country while under Chinese ownership, triggering a scramble among American tech giants to acquire it from Beijing-based parent company ByteDance. ( Microsoft is the leading contender in the M&A wars.) TikTok has also faced criticisms about its algorithms, which some creators say have resulted in unequal treatment of Black creators and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Reels has been in the works for over a year, and has been tested in Brazil, Germany, France and India for months. In that time, new entrants have made their own strides: Triller, Byte, Likee, Dubsmash, Roposo and Mitron are just a few of the apps trying to get a slice of the short-video pie. Has Instagram’s launch lagged behind competitors? The company isn’t worried. “Competition is better for consumers long term, and that’s something we agree with,” Lyons-Laing said. Besides, Instagram brought in $20 billion in ad revenue in 2019 . Still, Reels’ launch comes as Facebook and other tech giants are under pressure over their alleged anticompetitive practices , which critics say make it impossible for new, potentially groundbreaking startups to gain traction—Instagram’s massive userbase certainly gives it a leg up on apps starting from scratch.

To kickstart its progress, Instagram has been working with influencers to boost the launch, paying production costs to sweeten the deal. But the bulk of creators on either platform will be fending for themselves—and many are ready to test their luck.

Why not both?

For platform mega-influencers like Amanda Cerny, a high-energy comedian and actor who got her start on Vine and YouTube and now claims nearly 26 million followers on Instagram and 8.6 million on TikTok, Reels is the logical next step; now her long-form IGTV sketches can live alongside shorter Reels clips. For someone racking up millions of views daily, directing traffic and choosing where to put energy into creating custom content is a full-time job; Cerny has made her career by building on these platforms and developing partnerships. “Surprisingly to some, most creators work hard every single day filming, collaborating, writing, editing all for free and at their own cost,” she said.

But it won’t stop her from using TikTok. “ Just as brands shouldn’t advertise on only one platform, I can’t put all of my eggs in one basket either,” she told TIME on the eve of the Reels launch. “If I did that in 2014 with Vine, I wouldn’t be around today.” Cerny and other savvy creators are eager to have more options, even if they aren’t shifting gears entirely. “Different strokes for different folks! A fan in India may be on Reels while a fan in Brazil may be on TikTok,” she said. “I want to spread the smiles globally and not limit myself to one platform.”

Even creators like Lynn Davis of @cookingwithlynja and Muskan Umatiya of @moo5e, who have smaller Instagram and YouTube accounts and much more significant TikTok followings, intend to add Reels to their social media portfolio. “I will plan to use both platforms,” Davis told TIME. A retired Nokia product manager who became TikTok-popular over the summer after posting 30 days of cooking videos with the help of her videographer son, Davis has enjoyed the distraction while staying at home. “There’s no reason not to post on both,” she said. While she has over 700,000 followers on TikTok, and only about 24,000 on Instagram, she says her content works in both places and views have been growing steadily. “I think it’ll transition very nicely,” she said. Neither platform has reached out to her, and she does not monetize her content. But that’s not the point; she likes connecting with a new generation. “ Everybody says, ‘I want you to be my grandma,'” she says of the comments on her videos. “ When somebody copies a recipe, it’s very flattering.”

Umatiya said she will “definitely” test out Reels, especially because she would like to see her TikTok following transfer over to Instagram. “I would engage with a lot more fans that way, since it’s possible to direct message anyone on Instagram,” she said. (On TikTok, you can only message friends.)


That’s a lot of Jawns #cooking #recipes #fyp #LynjaTurtles

♬ original sound – cookingwithlynja

Chinyelu Mwaafrika, a TikTok comic with 100,000 followers, is ready to give Reels a shot too. Known for his short, confessional, fast-talking monologues, Mwaafrika has been wary of TikTok despite his popularity; earlier in July, he spoke to TIME about his concerns regarding what he felt was unequal treatment of content by Black creators like him. But so far, he hasn’t felt that he has other options. “In a lot of ways, we’re in a hard place. I like creating content. I like people seeing my content. I like a lot of people seeing my content,” he said. “Right now, TikTok’s the only outlet I have for that to happen.” He hasn’t focused on his other social media accounts—becoming an “influencer,” he says, wasn’t his plan—and his Instagram still has fewer than 1,000 followers. “ Regardless of how good Reels is, I think I’m definitely going to start posting my content on Instagram. And maybe if it does well on Instagram I’ll start doing YouTube as well,” he said. Still, if the eyeballs remain on TikTok, he won’t be straying too far. Nearing his 100,000-follower mark, he will soon be able to get lucrative brand deals.


When neolibs discover police brutality

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A different mechanism

Some creators, however, never quite found their footing on TikTok, and are happy to see a new alternative on Instagram. That’s the case for Chris Zurich , a New-York-based singer-songwriter. He has a little over 12,000 Instagram followers; his videos, posted to his grid, rack up views many times that. But his acoustic music videos on TikTok only got him to a few dozen. Reels is now an intriguing option; TikTok “encouraged such a different approach” in terms of the tone that creators took and the type of content that takes off—like humor, tutorials, advice and dancing—while on Instagram he can be consistent with his own style of music and personality.

To others, like Emily Barbour or @emuhhhleebee, the Instagram launch couldn’t come at a better time. Just a few days ago, Barbour announced she would be taking an indefinite hiatus from TikTok after dealing with what she believed was “shadow-banning” of her content and inconsistent viewership. While Barbour wasn’t aware of Reels before TIME reached out, she said it was “pretty exciting.” She hopes she won’t have to “fight” with an algorithm, an idea that appeals to her.


A lot of different of reasons, one solution. Thank you. I love you. Be safe. Be good. 💕

♬ Welcome to the family by Watsky – emuhhhleebee

Not everyone is sold on Reels’ potential. “Even with the challenges I’ve had as a Black woman fighting against the seemingly biased TikTok algorithm, TikTok also has a sort of magical haze of mysticism in the way the app itself operates,” TikTok creator Onani Banda , @thedopestzambian, told TIME. “As an Instagram user, even with those very tools of video creating at my disposal, I don’t see Instagram giving me the same reach or opportunity.” She says she’ll try it out, but is not “expecting much to come of it.” Umatiya, meanwhile, said she has been debating leaving TikTok because of concerns about the ban. “But I know deep down I never will, because making creative content is what makes me the happiest,” she said.

Potential room to create

Those who are using short-form video popularity as an income source will face a more complicated landscape. TikTok recently announced the development of a planned $2 billion-plus “Creator Fund” to support talent on its platform. Instagram, meanwhile, secured exclusive content for its launch and is offsetting production costs for select partners. While right now Reels isn’t a place to make money, monetization is certainly the plan “longer term,” Lyons-Laing told TIME. The priority, she said, is getting new tools in users’ hands and seeing where they take them.

All the creators agree that Reels will have steep competition when it comes to one main thing: discovery. TikTok’s discovery mechanism is distinct from other social media platforms because it surfaces strangers’ content first. For Reels to truly supplant or compete with TikTok or its copycats, like the music-focused Triller or Singapore’s Likee, it has to become a place of native discovery, offering up connections to content outside of the approved friend network. Without that, Reels may become just another blip on the brand’s project radar. (In 2018, for instance, Facebook experimented with a precursor product called Lasso ; it was shuttered this year after failing to gain steam.)


♬ original sound – moo5e

“It’ll be interesting to see to what degree Instagram is able to match what TikTok was known to be best at,” Zurich said. “It’s an app that was essentially geared toward virality and putting your own spin on existing trends.” While that has meant that the mysterious “algorithm” outweighs the importance of a user’s curated feed—and can have effects like those that Barbour, Banda and Mwaafrika have noticed—it’s also created the opportunity for unusual accounts, like Davis’s, to find a huge audience.

“If I were the CEO of Instagram,” Mwaafrika said, “my main goal with the Reels thing—well, I’d like to keep 60 second max video format. And I’d make sure it has a similar mechanism for discovery.” That seems to be Instagram’s plan: boosting the Explore functions and making content even more shareable is a front-and-center part of its Reels launch.

Playing the long game

As creators look to a future with audiences dispersed across any number of different platforms, each with their own requirements, they know there’s work to be done if they want to stay relevant. “ TikTok, it’s like Vine, I don’t think it’s going to be around forever,” Mwaafrika said. “If that’s the case, I’ve put a lot of work into TikTok. I don’t want that to have all been for nothing.” He’s hoping to “diversify” his followings across platforms while the going is still good. Davis, Barbour, Zurich, Umatiya, Cerny and Banda seem content to test out Reels without pinning their hopes on it, although they do have suggestions for small improvements: Barbour would like to see closed captions for better accessibility, while Umatiya dreams of an easier way to collaborate with other creators or communicate better with fans within the app, especially due to pandemic limitations on real-life meetups, and Cerny would appreciate a “retweet”-type feature, similar to Vine’s “Revines,” that eases the sharing process.

I have seen many apps come and go,” Cerny said. “But the ones that have stuck around usually are the ones that support and listen to their creators’ concerns. The ones that don’t forget about their creators as they build their billion dollar valuations.” If content is king, the creator is, well, the deity.

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    Ryan Reynolds ‘Unreservedly Sorry’ for Getting Married at South Carolina Plantation / Time · Wednesday, 5 August, 2020 - 13:48 · 1 minute

Ryan Reynolds has expressed regret for holding his wedding to Blake Lively at a former plantation in South Carolina.

“It’s something we’ll always be deeply and unreservedly sorry for,” the actor told Fast Company in a new interview. “It’s impossible to reconcile.”

Reynolds and Lively married in 2012 at Boone Hall, a former plantation in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. In the years before the Civil War, Boone Hall was the site of a brick-building business, which thrived from the labor of enslaved people. The plantation displays nine slave cabins, called “Slave Street.” Historians and activists have long said using such venues for celebratory events like weddings glorifies the American system of slavery and the violent oppression of Black people.

Speaking with Fast Company , Reynolds said that at the time, he and Lively viewed Boone Hall as “a wedding venue on Pinterest,” and only later saw the site as “a place built upon devastating tragedy.” Last year, Pinterest, along with wedding websites like The Knot and Zola, announced it would stop promoting content that romanticizes plantation weddings .

“But shame works in weird ways,” he said. “A giant f-cking mistake like that can either cause you to shut down or it can reframe things and move you into action.” To that end, Reynolds introduced the Group Effort Initiative in July, which aims to invest in marginalized communities that are typically underrepresented and ignored in Hollywood.

“Representation and diversity need to be completely immersive,” he said. “Like, it needs to be embedded at the root of storytelling, and that’s in both marketing and Hollywood.”