The “Breaking the Internet” Era

By Sam Delaney

A phrase in the world of social media has once again resurfaced in light of Kim Kardashian’s recent post of her cover of Paper Magazine on Twitter, this ever so popular and reoccurring term being “Break the Internet”. Breaking said Internet is an action that often happens through the use of social media, when a celebrity posts something or does/says something that will cause viral frenzies online. So much traffic is coming and going through that one post or site that it could cause confusion and clutter. According to TIME, “breaking the internet,” means engineering a story of viral media content to dominate Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms at the expense of more newsworthy things. They point out that just as this Kim Kardashian cover on Paper magazine hits the Internet, a majority of people probably don’t even know that humans have successful landed a probe on a comet for the first time in the history. Yet, what is being talked about and hashtagged on twitter? Kim Kardashian’s butt.


This term “breaking the internet” can also be called “hijacking the internet”. These viral trends are distracting the world from what is actually going on in the news and replacing it with these “in the moment” trends that become such a huge part of our lives, our jokes, and our references for years to come. It has become a world where twerking has become a social trend overnight on the Internet yet at the same time in history something much more important could have been happening in the world that gets little viral exposure. Begrudgingly, we are so consumed and distracted by the global trends that we see shared and reposted on our favorite sites.

Now, today’s generation is using the Internet as a medium to create shock value and spread worldwide trends. It gives way to complete viral attention, and in that moment that is the ONLY thing we talk about, in repetition, so much so that by the end of the current fad it gets old. Celebrities use these sites to shut everyone else down, to get all eyes on them and what they are promoting. These huge trends get so many views and conversations started that the internet is trying so hard to keep up with it all, without shutting down. This act of “breaking the internet” has happened quite a few times throughout the past years. Some examples were:

  • Beyonce’s Secret Album Release
  • Alex from Target Video
  • Kim and Kanye gracing the cover of Vogue
  • Kim Kardashian’s Paper Magazine Cover


Sometimes breaking the Internet can happen intentionally or unintentionally. For celebrities it is a planned PR maneuver, whereas things not planned that spread virally tend to be negative, like the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch’s discriminating words. On a more literal note, there are theories as to how the Internet could actually break. One theory comes from Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt, who says that surveillance programs like NSA are going to break the Internet. The Guardian stated that sharks could break the Internet just by nibbling on underwater cables. Kim hashtagging “break the Internet”, was her way of having control over what was happening, as if she would foresee all this hysteria the post would cause, and was making the prediction for a viral trend herself. A lot of celebrities have a sense of humor about these trends and just wait and watch as they go viral and spread through the Internet.

Atler, Charlotte. “What Does It Mean to ‘Break the Internet’?” Time. Time, n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.


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