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What it's like to watch a meme explode on Twitter


There have been several twists and turns in the evolution of Twitter as it grew from elite gathering place for journalists and early adopters to open forum for the masses. One of the latest chapters in this saga has been the appropriation of inside-joke Twitter memes, once confined to a small core of bloggers, by unending hordes of regular people.


Today saw the reemergence of a meme that we're calling the “Sign Bunny.” If you've never seen this meme, here's an example:

No one knows the origins of the Sign Bunny. A Topsy search was inconclusive, but we know the meme had previously made the rounds in Media Twitter as a sarcastic “GREAT UNBIASED REPORTING” sign. One source guessed it started with Twitter-famous subtweeting cat @SubtweetCat, but the cat vehemently denied this to the Daily Dot.

In any event, for a long time, the Sign Bunny, like many other memes, enjoyed brief bouts of popularity before once again submerging beneath the ever-churning waves of Twitter's "hot new thing."

Today, however, was different. Today was the day that the Sign Bunny escaped its cage.

It started with this tweet from Tumblr's Amber Gordon to the Daily Dot's Cooper Fleishman:

Gordon then tweeted this public Sign Bunny to her followers:

The people in Gordon's social circle—and the people in those peoples' social circles—took it from there.

As they birthed new Sign Bunnies and stuffed them with funny jokes, these Twitter users likely didn't realize the dangers of the Sign Bunny breaking out of its containment. Before long, however, the Sign Bunny metastasized from Media Twitter to the general public.

Oddly, if you scroll down to find pre-media-circlejerk Sign Bunnies, it was all One Direction fandom.

Media Twitter quickly took notice of what it had wrought.

Some even mocked the spread of the meme in the context of Twitter's supposed journalistic merits.

Others got political.

Brands and news sites weren't far behind.

As usual, Darth was on top of his game:

Meanwhile, back in Normalville...

The community that had helped the Sign Bunny spread almost immediately soured on the concept.


As the dust began to settle, Gordon expressed her regret. When asked for comment, she told the Daily Dot, “I'm sorry.”

If nothing else, the explosion of Sign Bunny was good for this writer's follower count.

Update: We’re calling the Sign Bunny’s time of death at 4:54pm ET, when the New York GOP tweeted this. (As we all know, the Doge meme died when the Republican Party took it over.)

Lead art via Kelly Weill

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