Remember the time we used to build pillow forts, autotune ourselves in front of table fans, and genuinely enjoy touching grass without being told to do so? What about the simpler era where beach vacations meant no Dora The Explorer or Pac-Man, just digging for clams and napping in hammocks? Yeah, me neither.
If there’s one thing I remember about my childhood, it’s the fact that I was a chronic internet user. Mentally, I was always in cyberspace and, physically, on the family PC with a dial-up modem. Although it was rightly placed in my parents’ room, the supervision didn’t stop me from entering countless online communities—ultimately helping me build a knee-jerk reflex for switching tabs the moment someone walks in.
But among sus flash games, my questionable presence on Habbo Hotel, and even my dad’s Orkut account, lies a notorious list of ‘Don’t Google’ searches—a trend which was once purged from the internet for good, just to make its wildest comeback among young gen Zers on TikTok today.
Don’t Google, also known as ‘Don’t Look Up’ or ‘Don’t Google Translate’ trends, essentially refers to a slew of warnings issued against searching certain keywords on the world wide web. According to Google Trends, interest in the genre first peaked in November 2013, and then again in May 2014.
If you were online at the time, you’d have undoubtedly come across claims like “Don’t Google ‘2 Girls 1 Cup’,” or “Don’t ever search ‘1 Guy 1 Jar’.” And chances are that you did exactly what you were told not to do. As a result, you had your first brush with shock and gore websites, viewing some of the most disturbing content the internet had to offer before heading down for dinner like nothing happened.
Upon closer inspection, you’ll also notice how most of the trends used to follow a similar format like 2 Girls 1 Cup. Be it the infamous ‘1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick’ or ‘3 Orangutans 1 Blender’, the phrasing essentially made the genre of videos recognisable from the get-go. At the same time, however, it led to the parallel rise of scepticism about the videos in question. For instance, in the case of 3 Orangutans 1 Blender, the only proof of the clip’s existence is a series of reaction videos where people allegedly watch the same—leaving viewers with only the background sound for company.
Considering how almost any audio could be superimposed over a basic reaction clip, the trend sparked a debate surrounding creators manufacturing shock factor with their clickbait content.
In my case, my initiation into Don’t Google trends was through reaction videos. Afraid to look it up myself but failing to quench my thirst for knowing what the search terms yield, I often sought refuge in people who filmed themselves Googling the same. But this was where I drew the line as a soon-to-be digital native. A pixelated explanation of the clip on YouTube and a quick scroll through the comments section was all it took to relieve my brain cells before they committed a sin they’d undoubtedly regret. But this is sadly not the case anymore in 2022.
After May 2014, ‘Don’t Google’ searches peaked again in May 2020 and April 2022. This resurgence can be majorly traced back to memes on r/okbuddyretard in 2019. Meanwhile, the first discovered video on TikTok went viral in October of the same year after it was shared by an account with the username @dont.google. And soon enough, chaos ensued.
It’s common knowledge that when you tell someone not to Google something, they’re obviously going to do it. In fact, telling a person not to do something in general, especially when it makes them curious about the results, is more of an encouragement than anything. Hence, it’s safe to say that ‘Don’t Google’ trends thrive on this reverse psychology.
Warning netizens against Googling certain terms, the claims seek to arouse their curiosity and bait them into making the search—ultimately cementing their exposure to shocking images and disturbing videos. But what’s even more concerning is that, this time around, the trend is increasingly gripping younger gen Zers on a platform that is now being hailed as the top news source for the generation.
“I’m not the same teen I was before I made a TikTok account like two years ago,” 19-year-old Daemon told me on Discord, adding that they’ve previously fallen down the Don’t Google rabbit holes of ‘degloved face’, ‘rainbow kiss’, and ‘blue waffle’ on the platform. “Every time I see a video telling me not to Google something, I have to do it. It’s become a habit and a sickness of mine.”
You’d think that our generation has learned from the mistakes made by millennials, who grew up knowing the dangers of such Google searches and regretting it ever since. Unfortunately, it seems like gen Zers have yet to foster and be recipients of a more wholesome era of the internet even today.
On these terms, it’s worth noting that younger gen Zers didn’t exactly grow up with the experience of an older sibling talking them into searching ‘Meatspin’ or ‘Tubgirl’ online. Maybe if they had been subjected to that one jumpscare car video which has evolved into a rite of passage for sibling rivalry worldwide, they might just think twice before blindly Googling everything that they come across on social media sites in 2022.
“My first Don’t Google search was ‘LEGO Piece 32557’ and it was just a penis-shaped block. So every time someone told me not to Google something, I used to think ‘How bad can it be?’ and text them: ‘I’ll brb’,” Daemon continued. However, things took a twisted turn after they fell for the keywords ‘3 Guys 1 Hammer’. “It scarred me and I’ll never forget the person who told me not to Google it.” As ironic as it sounds, this is exactly the appeal backing the trend.
At the same time, however, another user admitted that they find it entertaining to tell members of meme communities in particular not to Google certain terms. “I still sometimes spam people with DMs like ‘DON’T GOOGLE 1990 space movie and Art of the Zoo’,” they said. “I know stuff like this has once traumatised millennials, but I love freaking [out] people my age out on Discord.”
In a way, it’s the same motivation that backed the generation before us when it came to talking friends into looking up the vilest videos in existence. After all, the entire concept of seeing ‘forbidden’ clips that everyone knows their corneas are better off without is somewhat addictive. The only difference this time around is that TikTok has simplified the process to suit gen Zer’s pathetic attention span with short-form reaction videos.
Filming themselves both before and after Googling shocking terms, TikTokers have now aided interests in searches for ‘How did Dora die?’, ‘Saltyicecream’, and ‘Why were chainsaws invented?’ With the intention of tormenting fellow users, they’ve also found the format to be quite engaging for obvious reasons. And this has only led to a boom in such videos on the platform.
Back when I had my first brush with Don’t Google search terms, my hesitation to look them up partly stemmed from the concern that the shock and gore websites would install viruses on my PC or even track my data. With gen Zers now evolving into one of the demographics least concerned with how Big Tech uses their personal information, I hate to admit that the videos I watched in the name of ‘research’ for this article were without a VPN. What’s the worst that can happen, right?
At this point, we’re all pretty much desensitised to the type of disturbing content the internet has to offer. Be it doomscrolling or questionable trends like the Jeffrey Dahmer polaroid challenge, eye bleach content seems to be second nature on the internet today and willingly traumatising ourselves with a quick Google search has become part of growing up online.
“I don’t see any solution to this trend,” Daemon said. “Unless everyone on the internet agrees that we need to get rid of it or some new cyber laws [dictate] our actions.” At the end of the day, remember that just because something is trending, it doesn’t mean that it’s always a good idea. So go ahead, resume your bottomless TikTok scrolling but think twice before acting on a claim, even if it’s deploying reverse psychology tactics to bait you into making a choice you’d regret in the future.
Stay a step ahead and, most importantly, stay safe. We don’t want to give millennials the satisfaction to sit back and watch our generation experience the same psychological damage they once did, right?
Ah, internet culture. In 2022, it has become synonymous with TikTok screengrabs, Tumblr aesthetics, gradient create modes, Twitter reposts, Google Ngrams, AlphaChads, sigma males, girlunion, girlstrike, uwu girls… I could go on and on about the trends, formats and audios. But while its evolution is necessary to keep up with, the humble roots of online culture should not be ignored either. I’m talking about the roots spanning back to 2004.
18 years ago, in the pre-smartphone and pre-YouTube days of the internet, a 15-year-old who went by SuperYoshi (real name Matt Mulligan) uploaded a video to the now-discontinued website called SheezyArt. Titled ‘The Adventures of Super Mario 3 Remixed’, the video was a pixelated edit of random clips from an episode of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!. Using Windows Movie Maker, the creator captured the essence of what meme culture has evolved into today: absurd, nonsensical, surreal and provocative media aimed to evoke humour, shock and confusion.
At the time SuperYoshi posted the edit, users on SheezyArt termed the genre ‘Poop’ and dubbed Yoshi “The Father of Poops.” The following year, when YouTube made its grand debut as an online video sharing and social media service, Poops infiltrated the platform and gripped the internet. During this shift, however, the genre was renamed to suit its native status on the platform.
Welcome to the wildly random world of YouTube Poop, an artform currently on the brink of extinction—yet still functioning as a ground zero for modern meme culture.
YouTube Poop, often abbreviated as YTP, is a genre of video mashups created by remixing or editing existing media—including (but not exclusive to) clips from popular cartoons, TV shows and commercials. According to Wikipedia, the source material often carries cultural significance which is fragmented and appropriated into a new media for “humorous, satirical, obscene, profane, as well as annoying, confusing, or dramatic purposes.” Meanwhile, meme database Know Your Meme defines the goal of YouTube Poop to create “purposely annoying videos that delight those who make them and irritate those tricked into watching.”
Throughout the 2000s, YTPs featured cutscenes from games released on the Philips CD-i platform like Hotel Mario, Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon. References from the animated series Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and the 1995 DOS game I.M. Meen were also commonplace for YTPs. Don’t even get me started on the genre’s obsession with SpongeBob SquarePants—with some videos raking over 18 million views on the platform.
Independent of the source material, however, specific editing techniques are what define YouTube Poop. Conveniently termed ‘Poopisms’, the methods include: reversals (for example, a person walking into a room can be edited to walk out), frame freezing (especially when an animated character makes a funny face mid-yawn), object duplication (in certain frames for comedic purposes), visual gags (quick flashes of other characters as a crossover edit) and bleeping, even for words that aren’t explicit. Stutter loops are also added for emphasis while sentence mixing—a technique where words are cut and mixed to create entirely new sentences that often include profanities—are used to make old cartoon characters address the latest news gripping the world. Earrape is another facet of YouTube Poop. Although undesirable, this is where creators intentionally blast the volume of certain frames to annoy viewers.
Now, all of this may seem overwhelming and hard to digest. But that’s exactly what YouTube Poop seeks to evoke: confusion and disorientation to the increasingly indifferent world of YouTube. If such edits were cross-posted to other platforms, say TikTok or Instagram, they’d fail to find their footing. Sure, short fragments of these edits have previously gone viral on the two platforms but it can’t be denied that YouTube has been conditioned for such edits in the first place.
So what is it about glitchy repetitions and humorous juxtapositions that make YouTube Poop so appealing? What is the creative process like? And most importantly, how is the genre still influencing internet humour in 2022?
“I would define YouTube Poop as an edit of pre-existing media that has been heavily edited in a way to be confusing, edgy or funny—mostly the last one though,” said Payes, an enthusiast who has built a community of YouTube Poopers on Discord. Although Payes stumbled across the genre when he was much younger, he was hooked onto it after watching a series titled ‘Barney with Bad Words’ posted by the now-terminated YouTube channel Barney Pooper. Then came ‘Caillou’s Gay Halloween Sex Orgy’ from the notable YTP creator cs188.
According to Payes, the appeal of the genre lies in its editing tricks as well as in its ultimate goal to evoke humour. “It’s super funny to hear kid-friendly cartoon characters all of a sudden dropping the F-bomb, making sexual jokes or start talking backwards,” he told SCREENSHOT. As for NiceGuy, a member of the community Payes has built, YTPs are all about the randomness of the content offered. Discovering the genre in 2007, cs188 remains the top creator for the enthusiast.
Over at the backend of the phenomenon, I spoke to Shadowwolf1337, a creator who has been a huge fan of YTPs since 2009—now with his own YouTube channel amassing over 16,000 views on edits. “Technically, my very first YTP was made in March 2013 but it was some very shitty Asdfmovie6 and Asdfmovie4 Poops made with Windows Movie Maker,” he shared. Fast forward to late 2016, the creator edited his first “real” YTP where he used a bunch of songs from the 80s and had fun during the process. “I never really finished the edits and was afraid to upload it—given my great fear of YouTube’s copyright strike system,” he added.
YouTube’s copyright and fair use, how could I forget? Since YouTube Poop relies heavily on existing audiovisual material protected under copyright laws—and sometimes modified in ways which redefine the intended purpose of the material (be it for a good cause or bad)—the videos are often shot down from the platform following complaints filed under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
In fact, back in 2007, political scientist and author Trajce Cvetkovski noted how the mass media conglomerate Viacom once filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against YouTube explicitly concerning YTPs. More specifically, a video titled ‘The Sky Had a Weegee’ by Hurricoaster, which featured scenes from SpongeBob SquarePants and ‘Weegee’, a satiric caricature based on Nintendo’s Luigi. However, the YTP is still up on the platform with a whopping 18 million views and multiple YouTubers reacting to it, even in 2022.
For Shadowwolf1337, the interest to post YTPs on its native platform stemmed from bingeing on several other collabs. “I wished I could host my own collab but the problem was that I didn’t have any videos on my channel. So I made some ‘finishing touches’ *laughs* to my existing video and finally uploaded it.” Surprisingly, his edit evaded YouTube’s terms for copyright. The next day, Shadowwolf1337 joined Payes’ Discord server and started working on the announced YTP.
In order to get more insights on the editing process, I asked Shadowwolf1337 about the tools he prefers for his videos. “Ever since ‘Succ at Subway’, I’ve used VEGAS Pro 14 for editing, GIMP for photos that I put into the videos and 4K Download for sourcing,” he shared. “My materials are also quite organised [see below]: ‘YTP stuff’ is for anything I would regularly use between videos, ‘Temp YTP’ for any one-time downloads that I’m unlikely to use again and ‘Video save’ has a subfolder called ‘YTP sources’.”
Talking about the pre-existing material, Shadowwolf1337 makes YTPs with random and underused sources rather than the mainstream SpongeBob SquarePants and Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog references. “Because with more commonly used sources, every joke I could possibly make has already been done,” he explained. Following this approach, Shadowwolf1337 is the very first creator who has edited a real YTP of Family Feud’s Richard Dawson.
However, last year, he hit a mental roadblock. “Over the course of 2020, it became harder for me to decide on the sources for every video I made. Until it got to the point where, in January 2021, I just couldn’t make any more YTPs,” Shadowwolf1337 admitted. “It wasn’t the lack of motivation but the lack of inspiration. I felt like making them but got no ideas at all.”
Although YouTube hasn’t removed any of his edits to date, two of Shadowwolf1337’s YTPs have been age-restricted. “These two videos just so happen to be the only ones with the F-word in the title,” the creator added. Let’s not forget how the explicit nature of YTPs often determines their appeal here. Furthermore, back in June 2021, Shadowwolf1337 lost his motivation to create YTP content altogether. “[This is] because of the epidemic of community guideline strikes and terminations that happened back then,” he said, outlining how tons of YouTube Poop creators have been discouraged and quit because of YouTube itself.
“Then we have those people who assume YTP is ‘just a dead trend from 2009’. Although I don’t think they have that much to do with it, I believe omitting ‘[YTP]’ from the title of a video results in more views.” The irony, right?
If all of this talk has prompted you to check out the genre, even though I’m pretty sure you must’ve stumbled upon a YTP before, here’s what all three enthusiasts have to say. “Just have a good laugh, that’s all I ask,” NiceGuy admitted. Meanwhile, Payes reminds one to be aware of the fact that there are different types of YTP creators with their own personal take on the genre. “Some are edgier than others but the best YTPers [according] to me are cs188, Marck3611, Hellion Hero, and The Septic Foundry,” he told me.
And if you’re interested in creating YTPs yourself, we’ve got Shadowwolf1337 on the line for some pointers. For starters, he preaches that people should spend more time with their sentence mixing. “I hate it when they slap roughly-cut clips of sound together and call it a day. With sentence mixing, you don’t just find a place where the vowel or consonant sound is said, you have to find a good place where it’s said—the strongest, clearest and the most well-defined sound that you can find.”
On the other hand, if you’re having a hard time discovering it, here’s a little hack from Shadowwolf1337’s experience: use a consonant sound that isn’t actually from the video. “I only put captions over parts of my sentence mixing that I find hardest to hear, but I don’t overuse them because having all the jokes read out to a person kind of ruins the humour,” he explained, highlighting how he often scraps loads of edits if they don’t turn out to be funny. “My quality control with uploading is that I find my edits funny, if not, [they have to include] original jokes or [be] cool to watch.” Payes additionally pointed out the overused trope of earrapes deployed to poke humour. “I don’t really find that funny… [it] can be painful to someone who is wearing headphones,” he concluded.
Even though YouTube itself is sabotaging its native video genre, the YTP community is committed to both expanding and reviving interests in the artform. In Payes’ Discord server, there are even dedicated channels for discussions, arts and self-promotions.
Think of it this way: YouTube Poop is being pulled off by creators with a computer and software skills. It is what punk music was to pop literate kids back in the 1970s—experimental and quite open-ended. Despite this low barrier of entry, however, the medium continues to influence modern meme culture with reaction GIFs and one-liners. And considering how there are YTPs being made on Disney’s Encanto as we speak, the genre is far from its supposedly ‘expired shelf life’.