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Facebook says I’m a 29 year old female living in San Francisco. Twitter says I like puns and bad jokes (@The_PUNisher_SF). Reddit upvotes and says I LOVE puns and bad jokes. And this blog tells you about my experiences using social media sites and learning to fit them all together into my life. www.facebook.com/TheBigSocialPicture

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Origin Story: The Harlem Shake

Thanks to contributors: @rachaelgerson @iPullRank @jaibe

If you’ve been online this week, you’ve seen the explosion of Harlem Shake videos. When viral trends like this come up, I normally like to track down the origins and figure out how these videos went viral.  As I was digging into the Harlem Shake, I realized this is relevant to my social media project, and thought it would be fun to share what I learned!

UPDATE: I've also decided to do origin stories from a few of my other favorite viral posts.  For now, I've decided to backdate those posts so they sort to the date they actually went viral.  Check them out under the label Origin Story!

What it is:
The Harlem Shake is a video featuring people dancing to the “Harlem Shake” song by Baauer.  It also was the name of a dance move from 1981, but the dancing styles are nothing alike.  You can see for yourself by watching the dance moves the kids are doing in this music video: http://youtu.be/HyWLaDGvvWI?t=3m6s

Back to the 2013 viral trend, it started with just a few versions of homemade videos, but then thousands followed suit.  A video following this theme is usually about 30 seconds long, and the first half is one person (usually in a helmet or mask) dancing to the song, while other people around them appear unfazed by the dancing.  Then when the beat drops midway through, the video cuts and suddenly everyone in the room is dancing, usually wearing weird/random costumes and doing strange dances.

How it started:
  • January 30th – Someone named Filthy Frank created a compilation video of his friends dancing to the song, and uploaded it to his YouTube channel.  It had the song and the dancing, but wasn’t the exact format that went viral. View here
  • February 2nd – TheSunnyCoastSkate made a copycat version of Filthy Frank’s video and uploaded it to YouTube.  Their version included the helmet and the “solo dancer” start, which became the format that everyone replicated in their videos. View here
  • February 6th – @vernonshaw came across the skater version, and decided to make his own version at his work, Maker Studios.  Their office version  posted on Reddit, and made it to #1 within a day.  This is the one I embedded above.  Also, view here
  • From there, the Maker Studios version became the most viewed version to date.  According to YouTube Trends, there have now been over 12,000 uploaded versions of Harlem Shake.  Move over, Gangnam Style.

Why it’s gone viral:
Depending on which video you see first, this craze might seem stupid (it did to me).  But if you watch some of the better videos, you’ll see that it can be funny and entertaining, depending on the randomness of the location, the costumes, and the dance styles.  Also it’s only 30 seconds to shoot and watch, and the song is surprisingly catchy.  Most of the reproductions are better than the original video, this one is my favorite:


  1. This one is my favorite :) Who says beanie babies aren't cool anymore?

  2. I was just wondering this the other day. Thanks for the post.

  3. cool info :)
    Tx, now i know where it comes from d^_^b

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