If you’ve ever doubted the power of the internet, an egg just proved you wrong.
The Instagram account @world_record_egg was created for a singular purpose—to break Kylie Jenner’s record for most liked Instagram post. The account posted its lone egg picture on January 4, but gained substantial momentum Sunday afternoon, smashing Jenner’s record of 18 million likes. The post is up to 41.5 million likes as of this writing and growing.
Yes, the World Record Egg is peak internet stupidity. It’s also a stroke of social media genius.
If nothing else, @world_record_egg speaks to Instagram’s power and inanity. In one motion, the account reached and mobilized tens of millions of people for the silliest possible cause. We’ve been warned for decades about the dangers of the internet, and for good reason. But it turns out the most effective way to harness the internet’s power of mass communication is for a dumb joke.
Instagram is big business for Kylie Jenner and other high profile influencers who have monetized their social media presence. Millions of dollars are poured into photoshoots, captions and targeted advertisements. The app is an industry unto itself. But for regular users, it’s a place to catch up on friends’ lives, ogle celebrities and share jokes. Most of us aren’t worried about Instagram as a livelihood—we’re using it as an escape from the rigors of reality.
The World Record Egg is a straight-up mockery of capitalistic Instagram culture, and its appeal is that anyone who wants to can be in on it. On an app stocked with carefully curated content designed to maximize engagement and profit, the most liked post ever is now a plain snapshot of a brown egg. The account has a general prankiness to it. It feels almost mischevious to take the record from Kylie Jenner, one of the most successful members of the unavoidable Kardashian clan. We know (without knowing) how integral Instagram is to her brand, and there’s a chance that she—or any celebrity or brand—would have relished this title. Ultimately, of course, it’s a victimless and effortless crime. By Monday, even Jenner was joking about it.
But @world_record_egg’s success says as much about the merry band of 40+ million pranksters as it does about Insta-celebs like Jenner. Social media is based on an innate desire for connection. Underneath all those likes and comments and DMs, we’re yearning to be part of something bigger than ourselves, whether we know it or not. We spend so much time on Instagram not to enhance our real-life experience, but to fill in the cracks of who or what we might be missing at any given second. And we jump at the chance to share whatever’s new and entertaining, whether it’s a cute video, funny meme or a bizarre account created to set a seemingly meaningless world record.
The World Record Egg made it easy by placing that sterile feeling of connectedness directly underneath all our thumbs. The post’s popularity became a joke in itself, fodder for further internet content, while the account has already taken its inevitable turn into a dumb grift. @world_record_egg teased forthcoming merchandise on its Instagram story, and hundreds of copycat accounts have popped up—world record fruits and vegetables trying to recapture the egg’s magic. But there’s only one original, and the internet knows it. The idea was likely executed by a professional social media team or organization that knows exactly what it’s doing, which would make @world_record_egg even vapider than it already was.
In the coming weeks and months, we’ll probably look back on this as a silly blip in our increasingly dumb timeline. But I can’t help wondering if the egg cracked open something bigger.