31 Super Random Things That Have Cult Online Followings
The weirdest place in the world isn't a place at all. It's the Internet.
The Internet is a truly spectacular thing. It’s allowed people from all over the world to come together and celebrate their shared interests, whether that be politics, movies, technology, or… slime videos? Yes, that’s a real thing—and there are a whole lot of people online who feel passionately about it.
Suffice is to say, there are a lot of truly weird obsessions out there, and many of them have become bona fide cultural phenomenons, thanks to the Internet. But isn’t that what makes living in this ever- and over-connected age so wonderful? Back in a pre-Wifi world, a person’s curious love for pimple popping or obscure anime or bubble water would make them feel like an outcast. Now, because of the Internet, they’re instantly part of a global community, and they feel a little less alone in the universe.
To that end, here are 33 seemingly random things that have developed a loyal cult following online—because if the Internet has proven nothing else, it’s that we’re all looking for that one freaky, embarrassing obsession that we’d never admit to loving out loud but would happily debate with a stranger from another time zone (from behind the anonymous safety of a screen). And for more on the oddities of human existence, here are The Weirdest Superstitions People Use Every Day.
Pressure washer videos
“When you’re watching, it’s like you’re doing the pressure washing, but you’re not,” a fan of pressure washer videos told the Wall Street Journal last year. It’s kind of remarkable how comforting and satisfying it is to watch other people cleaning grime and garbage with a high-powered hose.
In fact, according to Consumer Reports, pressure washer sales has increased 20 percent over the last four years. Either the world is suddenly filled with a lot more graffiti, or those pressure washer videos are making a convincing case. And for more totally strange obsessions, here’s The Weirdest Urban Legend in Every State.
Yes, this a real thing. Not for the faint of heart, Sandra Lee, otherwise known as Dr. Pimple Popper, chronicles her extractions of inflamed blackheads, and her fans—yes, she has fans—seem to love it. Not only does she have 4.8 million subscribers on YouTube, but she also hosts a very, very cringe-worthy reality show on TLC. What’s more, you can even buy pimple-popping toys on (where else?) Amazon.
Born from a “paranormal pictures” Photoshop contest in 2009—where users were asked to turn ordinary photographs into something horrifying with Photoshop—Slender Man became a part of online mythology, a child-nabbing creature that everybody knows doesn’t exist but still manages to give everybody goosebumps anyway. That’s especially the case when you consider that the made-up character may have actually inspired a real murder in 2014, by Slender Man-loving teenage girls who wanted “to prove the skeptics wrong.” And for more terrifying tales spawned from online, check out these 27 Spine-Tingling Internet-Era Urban Legends.
Everlane Day Heel
When these shoes, with two-inch block heels made from Italian leather that retail for $150 (they’re totally competent, but nothing special), were first introduced in 2017, they sold out online within just a day, and the waitlist for customers eventually swelled to 28,000 people. “With block heels that were just the right height, they elicited the Parisian chic vibes that instantly transported me to the cobblestoned avenue of Champs-Elysées—fresh baguette and beret in tow,” wrote one writer for Hello Giggles, who described how the “cult-favorite” shoes inspired her to rethink her philosophy on life.
Now that is one powerful pair of shoes!
You can drink it, you can eat it, you can pop it in pill form, or you can grill on it. (Well, the grilling kind is different, so don’t start gnawing on a briquette.) It’s activated charcoal and up until about a decade ago, you only heard about it if someone got their stomach pumped. But charcoal has become an online sensation. The Dirty Lemon brand of charcoal water, which (according to its website) promises to “improve digestion, stimulate liver function, and gently cleanse your system of impurities,” has an Instagram following of 108,000.
Olive Garden’s Never Ending Pasta Pass
The Olive Garden’s Never Ending Pasta Pass just sounds like it should be a Saturday Night Live sketch. The terms: $300 for unlimited pasta throughout the year, and $100 for unlimited pasta for eight weeks? Um, not to throw shade at anyone’s dietary choices, but who needs that much pasta?
Apparently, a lot of people. The passes sold out on the website in less than a second, according to Olive Garden. And scalped passes regularly sell on eBay for up to $2,000 each. And if you really want your mind blown, check out these 50 Weird But Wonderful Facts That Will Leave You Totally Amazed
U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team fan fiction
You’re probably aware of Twilight fan fiction, Harry Potter fan fiction, or Star Wars fan fiction—comprised of novels, novellas, or short stories published online by amateur superfans. But deep in the Internet you’ll find a thriving genre of fan fiction that may or may not surprise you: U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team fan fiction. And there’s a ton of it. If you know what “Krashlyn” or “Talex” means, you’re probably familiar with these stories.
Pumpkin the Raccoon
A family in the Bahamas discovered a very sick raccoon in their backyard, so they did what any reasonable, kind-hearted people would do. They took in the raccoon as a pet and documented its hijinks on a wildly popular Instagram page.
Now, Pumpkin the Raccoon has 1.5 million followers. Some of the photos are admittedly adorable, like when Pumpkin snuggles with her doggie pals. But it’s hard not to grimace at the sight of a raccoon digging in a kitchen cupboard or putting its paws in food. Have we all forgotten that raccoons are big carriers of rabies? And for more animals who have totally made it, meet these 40 Pets That Are Living the Good Life.
9GAG is an online platform for ridiculous user-created memes and GIFs, curated by a Hong Kong businessman. “We basically wanted to solve our own problem,” says founder and CEO Ray Chan. “That was, how can we find funny pictures?”
Using the same strategy of Field of Dreams—”if you build it, they will come”—9GAG attracts 150 million users every month, and the Instagram account has around 49.5 million followers. Where else on the Internet would you find 1,700 people debating whether, in one optical illusion, a cat is going up or down a flight of stairs? And for more awesome trivia, check out these 50 Facts So Unbelievable You’ll Accuse Us of Lying.
Masha and The Bear
This Russian-made cartoon, a historically popular YouTube hit—it’s got over 4.4 million subscribers and well over 40 billion views—has been accused of being a plot by the Kremlin to “subvert children.”
Even if it is a Russian conspiracy, it’s pretty amazing that a show about a retired circus bear and a little girl could somehow get bigger YouTube traffic than a Bruno Mars video.
They don’t sell Heinz Ketchup or Doritos, but the grocery store with its own brands has grown from a small California chain, founded in the late ’50s, to a national empire with $13.3 billion in revenue. Len Lewis, author of The Trader Joe’s Adventure: Turning a Unique Approach to Business Into a Retail and Cultural Phenomenon, once called it “The Grateful Dead of supermarkets,” and that’s a fitting comparison.
Their annual and seasonal product launches, advertised only through their Frequent Flyer newsletter, bring out the Joe-Heads in droves, looking to scoop up the limited quantity items. The store is so coveted, cities without a Trader Joe’s—from Green Bay, Wisconsin to Lancaster, Pennsylvania—have set up Facebook pages pleading the franchise to open there.
Do you know how to fold your shirts like an envelope? Well over 1.5 million people bought her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, to learn her secrets. In a world of never-ending consumerism, should we be practicing more minimalism and asking things like, “Does this shirt bring me joy?” (If the answer is “nope,” toss it.)
This woman and her legion of followers and imitators believe such a tactic just might be the key to happiness. Her new Netflix series is getting the kind of online buzz usually reserved for shows like Game of Thrones and Stranger Things.
How in the world does an airline with no TVs, first class section, or even seat assignments become so immensely popular? Simple: They keep their customers entertained. The flight attendants aren’t just friendly and eager to please, but also legitimately hilarious. They’ve done burlesque during safety demonstrations, and one video of a Southwest pre-flight speech became so popular that it attracted 24.6 million views.
It’s just bubble water. But don’t say that to the loyal customers who feel about their favorite flavors like some people feel about their children. From Coconut to Key Lime, each La Croix flavor is distinctive. Some have attributed its cult status to great timing—it’s the perfect beverage for the no carb/keto/paleo lifestyle—but the secret ingredient has really been Millennials.
“(They) quickly turned our Instagram page into (our) most engaging platform and our fan base grew from 4,000 to 30,000 within eight months,” wrote a former digital strategist for the company. The #lacroix hashtag, solely driven by customer loyalty, has been used well over 207,000 times.
This Is Us
It’s not just popular because it’s well-written, well-acted, and critically acclaimed. Fans love This Is Us because it’s the saddest show that’s ever existed. There are tragedies around every corner on this NBC drama, and triumphant moments of characters overcoming tragedy with aplomb. Fans write about the show in online forums like it’s as holy as Easter Sunday Mass, or a trip back to Mecca. Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Bill Gates count themselves as superfans, and rocker John Mayer once tweeted, “Just saw the first episode of This is Us and I’m hooked. Cryin’ and hooked.”
Watching other people play video games
Young gamers, between the ages of 18 and 25, spend an average of three hours and 25 minutes every week watching other people play video games online, generally through Twitch, the streaming platform. There are about 600 million people worldwide who watch other people play video games, and that number is expected to jump in 2019 to 740 million. The audience for videos of non-celebrity Millennials playing Fortnite is actually bigger than most Lady Gaga videos.
Slime was the biggest DIT trend of 2017, according to Google, and fans of the genre were so hungry for more slime-making content that it even caused a national shortage of glue in the United States. If you doubt the popularity, check out the Instagram page of Slimequeens, the first slime account to attract a stunning 2 million followers.
The Kristen Bell show ran for just three seasons between 2004 and 2007, but it’s got a bigger following now than it ever did while still on the air. It’s not lauded like The Sopranos or The Wire or even cult classics like Buffy The Vampire Slayer. But fans, who call themselves Marshmallows, remain so obsessed that they crowd-funded a movie, and convinced Hulu to pay for an eight-episode revival season, scheduled to air sometime in 2019.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes
This is a legendary anime that for many years wasn’t available in the West. You couldn’t find it anywhere unless you ventured scarily deep into the dark web. It proved the old adage that, the more elusive something is, the more desired and sought-after it becomes. Some anime fans in online forums discussed Legend of the Galactic Heroes, the story of a century-long war between the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance, like it was their personal holy grail. The series, which includes around 100 episodes in all, as well as movies and other spin-offs, is finally available to U.S. audiences, which feels weirdly anti-climatic.
Followers of Leah Remini’s journey of leaving a cult
Leah Remini’s docu-series on Scientology, in which she and co-host Mike Rinder moderate a panel of survivors of the controversial religion, is such compelling television that it’s inspired legions of fans and detractors alike, who love debating Leah’s accusations online. Facebook groups both in support of the actress and calling for her show’s cancellation have gained momentum, and her Scientology showdown with fellow actress Jada Pinkett Smith, which premiered this November on Jada’s Facebook Watch series Red Table Talk, had a record 4.3 million views.
ASMR, or “autonomous sensory meridian response,” is a feeling of relaxed well-being combined with a tingling sensation that runs down the back of the neck, all caused by watching a video of a gentle stimulus, like somebody whispering or brushing the lens of a camera with a makeup brush or just tapping their fingernails.
“It’s a very pleasant, natural high state that you want more and more of,” says Maria, who runs the massively popular Gentle Whisperings YouTube page, which has 1.5 million subscribers. There are hundreds of these videos online, and there’s actual research suggesting it’s legit, with 80 percent of ASMR fans saying it’s helped them sleep and 70 percent claiming it’s decreased their stress levels. If you’re considering hopping on the following, be sure to check out the 50 Best ASMR Youtube Videos That Tingle and Relax.
A real life sci-fi sneaker with automated lacing, inspired by the 1989 movie Back to the Future II, is the most expensive and rarest sneaker ever made. It retailed for $26,000 and sold out before the sneakers even hit the market, gobbled up by collectors, athletes, and celebrities. Online sneaker obsessives still prowl the Internet in search of used Nike Mag 2016s, like some art collectors look for Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet. They’re out there, if you have the right contacts and know where to look—and most importantly have $48,000 to spend on sneakers.
Social media is the fastest way for a product to become coveted, and handbags are no different. Brands like Hayward, Trademark, and Wicker Wings became overnight sensations thanks to Instagram and Snapchat. Just how powerful is the social media machine? The Wicker Wings brand created a wicker fanny pack—yes, a fanny pack made of wicker, or as they called it, a belt bag—and it sold out in a single afternoon.
Silent dance parties (or “Silent Disco”)
Imagine a dance party where the music is broadcast via a radio transmitter and everybody is listening to it privately on their own wireless headphones. Does it sound fun, or creepy? We’re going with the latter, and it’s so much creepier than you could ever imagine. It’s weird enough that people have these parties, but then somebody films them and uploads the videos and they have thousands of views—in some cases, even half a million. We live in very, very strange times.
Beto O’Rourke’s 2018 Senate run
With his “On The Road” campaign videos and Whataburger visits, the grassroots campaign of this charismatic U.S. representative from Texas’ 16th district quickly drew national support unusual for a state race. O’Rourke ultimately lost his bid for Senator, but not before getting donations from all 50 states and the kind of national following for a local politician that hasn’t been seen since… well, you know. (His name rhymes with “My Mama.”)
Cannabidiol, or “weed without the high” as some have called it, is marketed as a wonder drug, promising relief for everything from anxiety to chronic pain. Does any of it work? If you believe the rabid online believers, it absolutely does. The U.S. market for CBD grew by 80 percent in 2018, to a jaw-dropping $591 million in sales, and most of it is happening online.
Sometimes called “Rooster sauce,” this Thailand condiment—first sold by its creator, David Tran, out of the back of his car in the early ’80s—is so beloved by aficionados that they use it on everything from doughnuts to chicken wings. There’s even a documentary about the mythical recipe, Sriracha, which is more than you can say about most hot sauces.
POV-style food instructional videos
If you thought overhead videos of disembodied hands making food doesn’t sound that fascinating, you need to pay a visit to Tasty, an offshoot of BuzzFeed that’s attracted billions of viewers, all of whom click through to watch people make recipes that look exhaustingly complicated but immeasurably delicious. The video for cheeseburger onion rings has been viewed a staggering 171 million times.
Who knows why so many people love looking at online videos of the absurd things that strangers put on their fingernails? Maybe it’s a little bit of schadenfreude, where we just find the humor in other people making really, really bad decisions. Or maybe there’s some part of us that loves those ridiculous nail designs. Some of the videos have well over 1.5 million views, so obviously there’s a large audience for people encasing mosquitos in the fake amber of their fingernails and drilling holes in acrylic nails to resemble Swiss cheese.
It’s just another fast food burger joint, but as the New York Times once observed, it’s exalted “both by hamburger fans and those who normally shun fast food.” It helps that the franchise only has locations in five states—California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Texas, and Oregon—and they’ve resisted any requests to expand to the East Coast. A pop-up In-N-Out opened in London in 2016, but they sold out of every burger within just an hour. Telling an In-N-Out devotee that the food isn’t so great is like telling a Scientologist that their religion is overrated. Good luck!
If $100 for a pair of yoga pants sounds insane to you, you’ll likely not be a loyal customer to Lululemon. But their online following is strong, with blogs like Lululemon Addict and hundreds of Facebook groups devoted to spreading the gospel of Lululemon brand loyalty. Even serious journalistic attempts to make sense of the brand’s popularity can’t help but mention “Lululemon’s ability to make butts look great.” It’s a Lululemon world; we just live in it.
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