YouTube Trends That Vanished As Quickly As They Arrived

by Stuart Wilson, Thursday 15 February 2024

More memes, viral phenomena, and moments of pop culture have come from YouTube than from any other website. Trends arise out of nowhere, take center stage for a few weeks or months, and then frequently go away just as swiftly. 

Looking back at these forgotten fads reveals a lot about the twitchy nature of fame and influence online. What makes a video spread like wildfire across the internet? Why do some online celebrities or popular tropes have staying power when others fade away?


One of the first truly odd internet crazes was “planking” in 2011. For reasons unknown, people started posting photos of themselves lying flat like a wooden plank in weird places. From park benches to the tops of buildings, planking spread as a kind of challenge to find the most outrageous and dangerous spot to plank.

A few months after it started, planking was suddenly terminated when a young man died attempting to plank on a high balcony. The fad disappeared almost overnight due to the backlash against its danger.

The Harlem Shake

In early 2013, a new viral dance swept YouTube, spawned by a video called “The Harlem Shake.” People raced to record their own versions, featuring someone dancing solo with a helmet on while others ignored them, then cutting to the whole group doing a flailing dance in costumes. 

Like most viral trends, the Harlem Shake blew up rapidly then faded away after a couple months. It demonstrated the power of collaboration and community on YouTube, as fans came together to create their own iterations.

Cinnamon Challenge

They make participants drink waterless as they ingest a tablespoon of cinnamon powder in this challenge. When the dense, dry spice hits the throat, it triggers massive coughing fits.

This painful, somewhat dangerous gag challenge grew popular despite its unpleasantness. After many cases of vomiting, choking, and even collapsed lungs, warnings against the trend slowed its spread. But the Cinnamon Challenge demonstrated the human urge to compete in outrageous dares just to get clicks and views.

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Mannequin Challenge 

In 2016, the “Mannequin Challenge” arrived as a simpler and safer viral idea. People posed completely frozen like mannequins, often in elaborate scenes with sports teams, bands, or groups of friends modeling intricate tableaus. The stillness made it strangely mesmerizing.

Like most sudden sensations, the Mannequin Challenge cooled off after a couple months. But it left us with striking images of people stoppered in time, revealing the creativity unlocked through trends. Millions collaborated towards a funny and visually fascinating internet artifact.


Virality works in mysterious ways. While some online celebrities and meme formats stick around for years, most fade as quickly as they appeared. But even fleeting fads reveal the weirdness and wonder of internet culture. 

Memes offer chances for global collaboration on funny ideas as people put their own twist on them. Trends bring remote communities together as content spreads between friends and strangers alike in a giant game of telephone. We see our diverse creativity and humanity in how these quirky phenomena spread.

And forgotten trends show the mercurial nature of digital fame. One day a video is hotter than lava, the next it’s icier than the Arctic. The internet moves rapidly, and yesterday’s sensation often becomes today’s distant memory.