Back in 2014, Obama was president, YA lit crushed at the box office (Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, and The Hunger Games movies all dropped that year), and the iPhone 6 was the top tech release.
It was a simpler time, online and off, meaning that this list of internet moments will make you feel something. Whether that feeling is “Wow, that was 10 years ago?” or “There’s a reason that I forgot this happened,” well… that’s #noneofmybusiness.
1. The 1989 era
Credit: Kevin Mazur/TAS/Getty Images for TAS
Taylor Swift’s 1989 may have leaked online a few days before its release, but that didn’t stop it from becoming the biggest album of the year. Tracks “Blank Space” and “Shake It Off” lampooned Swift’s reputation as a serial dater, “Style” and “Out of the Woods” stoked the dying embers of her relationship with Harry Styles, and the star-studded video for “Bad Blood” inflamed rumors about her purported beef with Katy Perry. The project, what Swift called her “first official pop album,” earned her a Grammy for Album of the Year and was the second-best selling album of 2014 (beaten only by the Frozen soundtrack.)
2. Five Nights at Freddy’s
The popular indie horror video game series, better known online as FNaF, launched in 2014. The player takes on the role of night shift security guard at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, where animatronics are possessed by the souls of murdered children. Nascent gaming creators like PewDiePie and Markiplier leveraged their outsized reactions to the game’s jump scares to build a following. Now nine installments deep, the franchise has spawned spinoffs, merchandise, lore, theories and, just this year, a movie starring Josh Hutcherson.
3. Ice Bucket Challenge
Heidi Klum dumps a bucket of ice water on Tim Gunn at the Project Runway Season 13 Finale Show on September 5, 2014.
Credit: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic
What would you do for a good cause? For celebs and layfolk alike in 2014, it was being drenched with a bucket of ice water. Videos of these shivery soakings were posted to social media, where the soakee would nominate others to either undertake the challenge within 24 hours or donate to ALS research.
Started by Pete Frates, a former baseball player diagnosed with ALS, the Ice Bucket Challenge was meant to spread awareness of the neurological disorder. It proved to be a wild success. People loved watching famous people get soaked, it turns out. The challenge has raised over $220 million globally for ALS research.
4. Elevator-gate (AKA the Solange and Jay-Z fight)
The thumbnail of TMZ’s video of the fight included helpful notations about which fuzzy figure was whom.
TMZ’s footage of Jay-Z and Solange Knowles tussling in an elevator after the Met Gala in May 2014 shocked the internet and sparked intense speculation about what could have caused the altercation. In the video, Solange can be seen hitting and kicking the rapper with a passion many online attributed to her fierce loyalty to her sister. Did Jay cheat? Underneath their friendly public facade, did the pair secretly hate each other?
Ten days after the incident, the family put out a press release that read, in part, “Jay and Solange each assume their share of responsibility for what has occurred… We’ve put this behind us and hope everyone else will do the same.” But in 2017, Beyoncé noted she hadn’t quite moved on. On a remix of her song “Flawless” she sang, in reference to her family’s approximate net worth, “Of course sometimes shit goes down when it’s a billion dollars on an elevator.”
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5. “Let It Go”
Frozen may have been released in November of 2013, but “Let It Go” was inescapable for the entirety of 2014. The wickedly talented Idina Menzel voiced the misunderstood Elsa, whose empowering ballad was parodied, memed, and eventually embraced as a gay anthem. “Let It Go” won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, topped music charts worldwide, and drove countless parents around the world out of their minds.
6. Ellen’s Oscar Selfie
Ellen DeGeneres’s famous selfie, snapped as she hosted the 2014 Oscars, featured enough star power to set records. Legends like Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, and Lupita Nyong’o mixed with the (less legendary) likes of Channing Tatum in what quickly became the most-retweeted photo in Twitter history at the time.
The casual, chaotic energy of the image contrasted with the haughty prestige of the event, underscoring social media’s ability to humanize the Hollywood celebs we usually gaze up at from the base of a pedestal. Multi-millionaires… they’re just like us!
7. Kim Kardashian’s “Break the Internet” Photoshoot
In 2014, PAPER released an issue aptly titled “Break the Internet,” which featured Kim Kardashian (then West) in the nude on its cover. The shot of Kardashian showing off and balancing a champagne glass on her baby-oiled behind immediately inspired a parade of memes and parodies. It also sparked intense discussion, online and off, about body image and social media’s role in celebrity culture.
8. Bye, Felicia
Felicia was a minor character in the 1995 film Friday, but in 2014 she became one of the biggest memes of the decade. “Bye, Felicia,” Ice Cube’s kiss-off to the character in the movie, became a common way to dismissively bid farewell or respond to people or situations that felt unimportant, unwelcome, or irrelevant.
9. Conscious Uncoupling
Credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for J/P Haitian Relief Organization
In 2014, actress Gwyneth Paltrow and musician Chris Martin announced their separation in a public statement titled “Conscious Uncoupling.” The phrase describes an approach to divorce that prioritizes emotional and personal growth, especially when kids are involved. It was coined in 2009 by therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas but took on a life of its own once Paltrow gave it a platform.
Like so much of what Paltrow popularized by way of her wellness and lifestyle brand “Goop,” “Conscious Uncoupling” was parodied in the press but was ultimately a harbinger of modern attitudes towards parenting, including the current “gentle parenting” trend popularized by TikTok.
10. Hot Felon
Right: Meeks’ original mug shot. Left: Meeks walking the Philipp Plein show during New York Fashion Week 2017.
Credit: Mashable composite: Stockton Police Department via Getty Images and Peter White/WireImage
In 2014, Jeremy Meeks’s mugshot was uploaded to Facebook by the Stockton Police Department in California. Within 24 hours, the photo had racked up more than 15,000 likes and 3,500 comments and earned him unexpected fame under the moniker “hot felon.”
After serving prison time for possession of a firearm, Meeks began a successful modeling career. Meeks’s infamy is one of the earliest and most prominent examples of viral fame’s penchant for unconventional stories and conventional beauty.
11. But That’s None of My Business
In 2014, a screengrab of Kermit the Frog sipping tea in a Lipton commercial became one of the internet’s most recognizable memes. Captioned “But That’s None of My Business,” the photo was used to point out irony or hypocrisy, or playfully comment on or convey critical observations, with an air of humor.
In 2014, photos of odd or awkward looking couples, or lovers caught in intense and strange public displays of affection, were captioned “This could be us but you playin.'” It’s unclear where the meme originated, but it certainly peaked in 2014.
Even Prince wanted in on the action. That year, he told the Minnesota Star Tribune that the song “This Could Be Us” from his upcoming album Art Official Age was inspired by a version of the meme that depicted him and Apollonia Kotero from the 1984 film Purple Rain.
13. Slender Man stabbings
Credit: Jeremy Papasso/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images
In 2014, Eric Knudsen’s fictional horror character Slender Man made the harrowing jump from the internet to reality. Two 12-year-old girls lured a friend into the woods in Wisconsin, stabbed her, and told police that the violent act was in tribute to Slender Man. The attack was covered widely in the media and instigated a moral panic about the influence of the internet on children and teens.
The event also brought attention to the internet’s creepypasta community, where users shared fictional horror content and Slender Man had gained popularity since 2009. The community raised money for the victim and, in a statement, the creator of creepypasta.com underscored that the site did not “endorse or advocate for the killing, worship, and otherwise replication of rituals of fictional works. There is a line between fiction and reality, and it is up to you to realize where the line is.”