Oh, no! Laurel-Yanny may be losing the great battle of the viral memes

By Christopher Zara

May 17, 2018

Not that it’s a competition (okay, it is), but the raging acoustic debate that took over the internet this week may not be the world’s most viral meme when all is said and done.


New data from Sprout Social, an analytics platform that measures activity on social media, found that the silly blue dress/gold dress debate of 2015 produced far more Twitter hashtag volume in its first few days than this week’s equally silly debate over an audio snippet that alternatively produced the word “Laurel” and “Yanny” for different listeners.

An analysis of Tweets between Tuesday and Thursday turned up 144,084 mentions of #Laurel and 70,198 for #Yanny, according to Sprout Social. Twitter mentions of both #Laurel and #Yanny were at 160,616. Even if you were to add all three of those numbers up, you’d still only get 374,898 mentions.

By contrast, Sprout Social found 688,871 Twitter mentions of #TheDress between February 27 and March 1, 2015, which is the first few days after BuzzFeed helped that meme go viral by asking “What colors are this dress?”

Of course, while this data is a fun first step, it’s not a perfect apples-to-apples comparison. First, it’s just an analysis of hashtags, so it doesn’t reflect the full volume of activity around the conversations. Second, the dress meme had the benefit of going viral toward the end of the week, giving Twitter users an entire weekend to discuss the debate when, presumably, they didn’t have much else going on. Finally, we’re only a few days into the whole Laurel-Yanny phenomenon, and while it was no longer trending on Twitter the last time I checked, it could certainly pick up steam this weekend.

Somehow I doubt that will happen. Social media users seem to have already moved on to other things, like racist lawyers.