The Instagram egg is a photo of an egg posted by the account @world_record_egg on the social media platform Instagram, notable for becoming a global phenomenon and an internet meme within days of its creation. It has over 55 million likes, making it both the most-liked Instagram post and most liked online post on any website in history.[A] The owner of the account was revealed to be Chris Godfrey, an advertising creative, who later worked with his two friends Alissa Khan-Whelan and CJ Brown on a Hulu commercial featuring the egg, intended to raise awareness of mental health.
On 4 January 2019, the @world_record_egg account was created, and posted an image of a bird egg with the caption, "Let's set a world record together and get the most liked post on Instagram. Beating the current world record held by Kylie Jenner (18 million)! We got this." Jenner's previous record, the first photo of her daughter Stormi, had garnered a total of 18.4 million likes.
The post quickly reached 18.4 million likes in just under 10 days, becoming the most-liked Instagram post of all time. It then continued to rise over 45 million likes in the next 48 hours, surpassing the "Despacito" music video and taking the world record for the most liked online post (on any media platform) in history.[A]
By 18 March 2019, the post had accumulated over 53.3 million likes, nearly three times the previous record of 18.4 million. It posted frequent updates for a few days in the form of Instagram Stories.
Several individuals tried to claim that they were the account's creator, the claims being dismissed by "the egg" on Instagram direct messages.[B] On 3 February 2019, the creator of the Instagram egg was revealed by Hulu and The New York Times to be Chris Godfrey, a British advertising creative. Alissa Khan-Whelan, his colleague, was also outed.
On 18 January 2019, the account posted a second picture of an egg, almost identical to the first one apart from a small crack at the top left. As of 25 February 2019, the post accumulated 11.8 million likes. On 22 January 2019, the account posted a third picture of an egg, this time having two larger cracks. In less than 25 minutes, the post accumulated 1 million likes, and by 25 February 2019, it had accumulated 9.5 million likes. On 29 January 2019, a fourth picture of an egg was posted to the account which has another large crack on the right hand side, attracting 7.6 million likes by 25 February 2019. On 1 February 2019, a fifth picture of an egg was posted with stitching like that of a football, referencing the upcoming Super Bowl. That post had accumulated 6.5 million likes by 25 February 2019. The account promised that it would reveal what was inside the egg on 3 February, on the subscription video on demand service Hulu.
The Hulu Instagram egg reveal was used to promote an animation about a mental health campaign. A caption from the clip read, "Recently I've started to crack, the pressure of social media is getting to me. If you're struggling too, talk to someone." The video was later posted on @world_record_egg Instagram account which had received over 33 million views by May 2019. As of December 2020, it had received over 43 million views.
In response to breaking the world record for most-liked Instagram post, the account's owner wrote "This is madness. What a time to be alive." Hours later, Kylie Jenner posted a video on Instagram of her cracking open an egg and pouring its yolk onto the ground, with the caption: "Take that little egg."
Pundits pontificated on the meaning of the egg picture's dominance over social media's "first family". As Vogue observed, tapping a heart pictogram is easy, and eggs are "lovable". More pointedly:
[T]he attention economy is a scam based on requiring little to no labor from both producer and consumer despite commanding the most space, and therefore value, in our digital lives... but it very well could be: As a metaphor for the fragility of the influencer ecosystem, the egg has broken the Internet.
The researcher suggests that the accomplishment of becoming such a widely heralded unpaid viral post may become increasingly rare, as social networks rely more on paid and business promotion.
It has been characterized as a populist backlash against "consumerism". It is seen as a triumph of community over celebrity. However, propelled by their popular success, the creators have promised to cash in to a merchandising opportunity, releasing 'egg-centric' memorabilia; thereby adopting the corporate culture the effort seemed to implicitly reject.
- A source from 14 January 2019, says that with over 25 million likes, the only online post with more likes than the egg is the "Despacito" YouTube music video with 31 million likes; however, the egg as of March 2019 has 54.5 million likes, making it the most-liked online post of all time
- Following an Instagram Star Supreme Patty's crew member's drunken bragging to a TMZ reporter, her claim was called out. A marketer, Ishan Goel, called several news outlets claiming the egg and its success. These claims were refuted. Via Instagram direct messages, "the egg" denied the associations.
- "You can roll your eyes and say, great, the world is falling apart and we are talking about an egg. Or you could say that we’re talking about an egg because the world is falling apart. It’s bleak out there, and the egg is a feel-good story, a kind of social media rags-to-riches tale."
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I, for one, welcome our new embryoverlord.
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It's the viral sensation of the moment. But it has an art-historical precedent.
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As social networks rely more on paid promotion of content, celebrities realise they can buy their way to virality and big business muscles in, the happenstance viral hit is going to become a rare delight.
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