Strange Encounters of The Meme Kind

By AJ Ainslie, SMACC Student Analyst

What happens when a meme becomes reality, magic or an encounter of the fourth kind? On June 27th 2019 Matty Roberts, a student from Bakersfield, California, created the event “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop Us All” scheduled to happen on September 20th 2019 for the purpose of discovering what Area 51 has been hiding. Aliens or the dark secret to why America has yet to switch to the metric system?

In those short 85 days the event gathered more than 2 million people saying they would attend and 1.5 million people interested in the event. In the end, only 150 people made the journey for the raid itself and managed to get some selfies with less-than-amused guards, but thousands other gathered for the impromptu musical festivals around Rachel, Nevada.

Although the attendance was lackluster, doesn’t mean the event’s online presence was, at least for a few days. It wasn’t until July 11th that the Twittersphere decided to support the Area 51 Raid movement going from a modest 1,415 posts to 39,810 in just two days.

Area 51 volume
Drastic changes in Area 51 social media volume

At the peak of anticipation verified accounts such as comedian Dane Cook, punk rock band Blink-182, Rhett & Link from Good Mythical Morning and even former Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson were tweeting about the mock event.

Blink-182 band members
Blink-182 band members have fun with the Area 51 event

After the novelty of the joke wore off, so did the Twitter presence, until the days preceding the event. Much like the first time around, although this time a bit more predictable, the Twittersphere came alive, topping out at 40,837 posts, talk show host Jimmy Kimmel even joining the fun with his own memes.

Jimmy Kimmel meme
Jimmy Kimmel added his own meme to the mix

As quickly as it came the hype was gone and the event ended with only one casualty, the Area 51 meme. Memes come and go, but the memories will last forever. Matt Roberts never intended for this to happen, but nevertheless it did; teaching us one simple lesson: Don’t let your memes be dreams.

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