Apparently, the internet can’t take a joke. After weathering an increasingly cynical and cantankerous general populace on April Fool’s Day, a friend of mine crafted a satirical meme about a Green Moon ostensibly occurring on April 20 — but once the meme began to go viral, it quickly became clear the joke had gone, well, laughably awry. Along with the image of an intensely green-tinted moon, the meme reads:
“On April 20th 2016 several planets are going to align which will cause the Earth’s moon to appear green for about 90 minutes. This phenomenon is known as ‘Green Moon’ and only happens once every 420 years. Please share this event.”
Intended as satire for what’s known by cannabis enthusiasts as Weed Day, the internet, for the most part, missed the obvious reference — though that didn’t entirely surprise the meme’s creator, Johnny Liberty (yes, that’s an obvious pseudonym, but in light of the topic at hand, I feel it must be said).
What began as a request from his brother for a cannabis-themed green moon meme — in the same vein as common memes heralding Blood Moons, Pink Moons, and the like — turned into a humorous challenge when he jokingly suggested I share it to see how many people would be fooled.
I bet him it would take three minutes for someone to take it seriously — it took twelve — but that wasn’t the end of it. Not by far.
Without rhyme or reason, the meme went viral. Incredibly viral. Posted in the evening on April 2, in just five hours the meme had been shared from my personal Facebook profile over 900 times. When it hit the eleven-hour mark, the number had jumped to over 2,300 and was growing exponentially — with a rather embarrassing number of people taking it seriously.
In fact, we were so astonished at its ‘success’ rate, Johnny opted to post the Green Moon on a Facebook page with millions of followers — just to see what would happen. In eight days, the meme had accumulated more than 10,000 shares from my timeline and well over 400,000 from the large page — but even that wasn’t the end of it.
To our mutual bewilderment, the Green Moon meme became the subject of ostensible debunking by the mainstream media. Yahoo News, International Business Times, CNet, Inquisitr, Mic, and others have now all printed articles supposedly hoax-slaying the meme that was never a hoax to begin with.
Though some of those outlets appeared to grasp the funny, the fact a joke meme necessitated such articles is a terribly troubling commentary far beyond people’s gullibility. All joking aside, it unintentionally turned the meme into a telling social experiment.
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