Long ago—before Covington Catholic and covfefe and Cambridge Analytica—the internet was a place that people actually wanted to visit. In the early 2000s it was an uncharted wilderness beyond the edge of the world and each day was an expedition from your homepage into the unknown. Social media turned it into a casino where everyone tried to hit the next viral jackpot—unhealthy, but undeniably fun. Today it resembles the torture chamber in A Clockwork Orange. You want to look away from the never-ending stream of horror, conspiracy, and political rancor that’s algorithmically fed onto your screen, but you just can’t.
There’s a lingering hope among people who are Extremely Online that the internet will somehow right itself and again become the place of bizarre daily delights that made it so engaging in the first place. Those days may be gone forever; the web has become so tied up in the forces that undergird our society—politics, capitalism, surveillance—that it can no longer be thought of as an escape. IRL has come for us online, and it’s made us all miserable.
Data proves my point. Researchers at the University of Vermont have spent years developing the Hedonometer, a graph that measures daily Twitter sentiment by tracking aggregate usage of 10,000 common positive and negative words in the English language. Five is a neutral score on the Hedonometer scale, with any number higher reflecting that Twitter users were happy on a given day, and anything lower showing that Twitter users were upset. Six is around where it settles most days. Yet happiness on the platform took a nosedive around the time the presidential primaries kicked off in early 2016 and hasn’t recovered in the three years since. In 2015, only two days the entire year scored below 6.0—the saddest day, March 25, was when Zayn Malik left One Direction. This year there have already been 48 days below the 6.0 threshold, and last Wednesday set a 2019 low thanks to the explosive congressional testimony of President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen. The notion that the internet has turned toxic isn’t just in your head. It’s right there in the numbers.
Using this data as a starting point, I set out on a quest to recall what the internet was like before the Dark Times, back when the proliferation of social media and smartphones created an explosion of personal, bizarre, highly shareable content. When, exactly, did the internet peak? What was our happiest day on this information superhighway–turned–Fury Road?
Given the Hedonometer trends, I eliminated every day after Trump’s election (sorry, that one day Ted Cruz accidentally liked porn on Twitter). Beyond that, I developed a pseudoscientific framework that allowed for a mix of insights derived from data and my own gut instincts about times when people were psyched to be online. I analyzed every day since 2010 that scored above 6.1 on the Hedonometer and also considered about three dozen other days when significant world or internet events happened. I then created a scoring system that factors in the following categories:
Aggregate Happiness: This is based on the Hedonometer data. Every one-hundredth of a point a day earns above 6.0 is worth one point in this calculation. For perspective, a major holiday like Christmas 2016 scored 6.26 points, while Valentine’s Day of that year scored 6.16. The day after Donald Trump’s election scored 5.87.
Internet Celebrations: Which celebrity birthdays and holidays tailor-made for the internet get people especially excited online? As a point of comparison, I used Beyoncé’s birthday, September 4, which has been widely known since her 2006 album B’Day and is akin to Star Wars Day among Beyoncé fans. Days were scored from 1 to 5 based on how they measured up to Beyoncé’s birthday according to Google Trends. (All categories besides Aggregate Happiness are scored from 1 to 5.)
Viral Moments: The memes, the videos, and the weird news items that captured the internet’s attention on a given day, scored based on my personal assessment of their impact.
Historic Events: Things that actually mattered in real life but were discussed, shared, and celebrated online, again scored based on my personal assessment.
Movie Trailers: Trailers are one of the most effective engines of online hype. I’m scoring these based on how they generated interest compared to the first Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer, going off Google Trends data from the day it dropped in November 2014.
Pop Culture Announcements: This category is similar to the movie trailers one, but applies to things like album or book announcements by people who have extremely intense fan bases that grow deliriously happy with any morsel of new information. Here’s looking at you, Taylor Swift.
Music Releases: I’ll award points if a song released on a given day appeared on Billboard’s year-end Hot 100 chart and was sufficiently jubilant, or at least meme-worthy. The release date for a song’s music video can also apply in this category.
Sports Moments: Did an iconic sports moment or historic game happen on this day? If so, I’ll score it based on how much happiness it generated among fans online. More points will be awarded to events that reach beyond the traditional fans of a given team or sport.
I’m excluding all major holidays that automatically generate lots of positive sentiment, like Christmas and Mother’s Day. This knocked out June 19, 2016, when the Cleveland Cavaliers won their first NBA title on Father’s Day. Any individual day is likely to include events that apply to only a few of the above categories, but the more internet subcultures a given day can hit, the better. In the event of a tie, I will use my expertise as a person who’s been on the internet every day since my parents finally got dial-up when I was in sixth grade to determine the appropriate ranking.
OK, wanna feel old? Here we go.
10. The Royal Wedding (April 29, 2011)
Aggregate Happiness: 8
Internet Celebrations: Willie Nelson’s birthday (1), International Dance Day (1)
Historic Events: Marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton (5)
Total Score: 15
Ogling the royals has traditionally been a television-based affair, but the 2011 nuptials between Prince William and Kate Middleton was one of the first big online global events, generating more interest on some websites than Michael Jackson’s memorial service in 2009 and the World Cup in 2010. Words like “beautiful,” “amazing,” and “gorgeous” spiked in Twitter usage that day (a few haters tweeted the word “boring” too). Perhaps more importantly, Prince William’s 3-year-old goddaughter, Grace van Cutsem, was christened the Frowning Flower Girl because of her sourpuss expression during William and Kate’s famous kiss. BuzzFeed made a Frowning Flower Girl meme generator and someone used it to mash up Frowning Flower Girl with Sad Keanu. I don’t know if any phrase besides “what should we call me” could more instantly transport me back to the carefree online days at the start of this decade.
In other interneting, people took part in a very cool, new, and not at all obnoxious trend called “flash mobs” because it was International Dance Day. A surprising number of music fans celebrated Willie Nelson’s birthday. We laughed; we danced; we torrented a 2 GB file called “willie nelson discography 128kbps” off The Pirate Bay. Times were simple. Times were good.
9. The Double Rainbow Goes Viral (July 3, 2010)
Aggregate Happiness: 9
Internet Celebrations: Tom Cruise’s birthday (1)
Viral Moments: Double Rainbow video (3)
Sports Moments: Serena Williams wins fourth Wimbledon title (2)
Total Score: 15
Whoa. That’s the first word former firefighter, truck driver, and cage-match brawler Paul Vazquez utters as he observes a double rainbow in a three-and-a-half-minute YouTube video. Observes, of course, is a gross understatement—he more specifically “bears witness to,” “reveres,” and “has a spiritual awakening before” said rainbow, which he spotted from his farm near Yosemite National Park. Vazquez starts off feeling jubilant but soon begins crying as the vividness of the scene overwhelms his senses. “What does this mean?” he asks multiple times between sobs, and it’s clear he doesn’t want the Wikipedia definition. There is no answer that could match the spectacle before his eyes. It’s beautiful and humbling at the same time.
This clip didn’t go viral until Jimmy Kimmel tweeted it out on July 3 (with a retweet assist from my boss). Vazquez became known as “Double Rainbow Guy” and appeared on Good Morning America. Strangers flew him around the world to meet him. He captured something pure and joyful about what it means to be alive, and an iPhone and YouTube account allowed him to share it with the world. This may well be when classic YouTube peaked, before the platform became all high-definition music videos, and later a host of bedroom conspiracy theorists who feel like the bizarro versions of YouTube’s early viral stars.
8. The Oscars Meet the Internet (March 2, 2014)
Aggregate Happiness: 3
Viral Moments: The Ellen Selfie (5), John Travolta butchers Idina Menzel’s name (3)
Internet Celebrations: Dr. Seuss’s birthday (5)
Total Score: 15
Originally, it was just supposed to be a picture of Ellen DeGeneres and Meryl Streep. But thanks to some impromptu celebrity-wrangling, a selfie taken during the 2014 Oscars telecast turned into what was long the most viral tweet of all time. The Ellen Selfie (starring Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper, Kevin Spacey, Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, Lupita Nyong’o, Jared Leto, Channing Tatum, and introducing Lupita’s brother, Peter Nyong’o, as the Photo Bomber) racked up 3 million retweets in less than a day and became a bigger story than the awards show itself. Sure, it was part of a coordinated marketing effort by Samsung, but what corner of the internet isn’t infiltrated by sponcon these days? The reason this picture resonated with so many people is because it embodied the thing media organizations always try to extract from celebrities: spontaneity.
That was only one of many memeable moments the 2014 Oscars produced. John Travolta introduced Wicked star Idina Menzel as “Adele Dazeem” with all the confidence of a man who has staged at least three Hollywood comebacks. Pharrell wore his weird hat that makes him look like Yosemite Sam dressed as a Canadian mountie. Matthew McConaughey said “Alright, alright, alright.”
Even if you turn your nose up at celebrity obsession, guess what: March 2 is also Dr. Seuss’s birthday and Read Across America Day. That means this was a day on which people shared wise adages by Theodor Seuss Geisel, showed off their best Cat in the Hat looks, and helped spread the joy of literature to a younger generation of bookworms. March 2, 2014, has no patience for nihilist posturing about how nothing matters.
7. Leo Turns 40 and the Ebola Scare Ends (November 11, 2014)
Aggregate Happiness: 11
Internet Celebrations: Leonardo DiCaprio’s 40th birthday (1)
Music Releases: “Post to Be” by Omarion (1)
Historic Events: U.S. escapes ebola scare (3); U.S. and China reach climate agreement (1)
Total Score: 17
Forty is always a big birthday, but it was especially momentous for the guy whose entire persona feels like an extended Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show afterparty. Back in 2014, Leo was fresh off portraying Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby and Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street. Though search interest in Leo was nowhere near Beyoncé levels, there’s no doubt that the Leo toasting GIF, the Leo dancing like a boneless mollusk GIF, and the Leo toasting but this time on a boat GIF were in heavy circulation on the web that day. It was a celebration for all of us—older, wiser, but still willing to get dangerously high off decades-old quaaludes if the opportunity presents itself.
In far more important news, this was also the day that the ebola scare ended in the United States, when New York doctor Craig Spencer was discharged from a Manhattan hospital. You may recall the internet outrage when Spencer revealed that he had gone bowling in Brooklyn just before becoming symptomatic of the virus. Gaining assurance that a horrific disease has been eradicated from your home country is an unequivocally Good Thing.
November 11, 2014, also brought another signal that the world was not (yet) descending into a dystopian nightmare: The U.S. and China announced a joint agreement to substantially cut their carbon emissions in an effort to curb global warming. DiCaprio is a huge donor to organizations fighting climate change, so the news was surely a welcome birthday gift. And because no one thought the United States might unilaterally renege on such emissions agreements at a later date, this seemed like a W for planet Earth at the time.
6. Chicago Cubs Win the World Series on National Sandwich Day (November 3, 2016)
Aggregate Happiness: 4
Internet Celebrations: National Sandwich Day (5), Kendall Jenner’s birthday (2)
Movie Trailers: Second Wonder Woman trailer drops (1)
Sports Moments: Cubs win the World Series (5)
Total Score: 17
Days before the most divisive presidential election in modern memory, the nation celebrated the Chicago Cubs’ first World Series championship in 108 years. It was perhaps online America’s last moment of unified joy (even Cleveland Indians fans, who had just witnessed LeBron James and the Cavaliers break their city’s own 52-year sports championship drought, couldn’t be that salty). Though the game began on November 2, the 10th-inning groundout that sealed the Cubs’ triumph occurred at 12:47 a.m. ET on November 3, kicking off celebrations not only in Chicago but across the country. Among the heartwarming sights that dominated Facebook feeds: Bill Murray chugging champagne in the team locker room during a one-night stint as a Fox Sports correspondent; the countless viral grandparents celebrating a moment they’d been waiting on for a lifetime; Cubs fans adorning a wall at Wrigley Field with the names of their family members who didn’t live to see the victory. There had not been so many Americans pulling for a single city’s sports team since another major Chicago championship in 1998.
November 3 was also National Sandwich Day, which may be second only to National Pizza Day in the power rankings of fake internet holidays. National Sandwich Day emerged from the digital ether in 2015, according to Google Trends. By 2016 it was an institution with the requisite SEO headlines and thirsty brand tweets. But let’s be honest: Any made-up online holiday that leads to lunch discounts and this vicious dunking on Scott Walker’s ham-and-cheese is one that’s brought light into the world.
Even if you were among the small contingent of very bitter Indians fans who hate sandwiches, this day still had something to offer. The popularity of a new Wonder Woman trailer portended the movie’s blockbuster status the next year, and Kendall Jenner’s 21st birthday generated more digital affection on Instagram than I could muster in a hundred ironically distant lifetimes.
5. Why You Always Lyin’ (August 29, 2015)
Aggregate Happiness: 12
Internet Celebrations: Liam Payne’s birthday (1)
Viral Moments: Why You Always Lyin’ video (4)
Total Score: 17
Why did Next’s “Too Close”—a song about getting a boner on the dance floor—become the biggest song of 1998? Why did Nicholas Fraser use the instrumental for a Vine he uploaded on August 29, 2015? In said Vine, why is there a toilet in Fraser’s backyard? These questions are all secondary to the overriding question of our current age of online duplicity: Why the fuck you lyin’?
Fraser’s Vine was the first time I recall a meme going from nonexistent to everywhere on the internet within a matter of hours. Think about 2010’s Double Rainbow Guy, which required a co-sign from Kimmel and a segment on daytime TV to crack the national consciousness months after it was created. Why You Always Lyin’ took over Twitter through the sheer force of its absurdity, and its usefulness as a retort to any variation of bullshit you might encounter online. We would soon enter a world where deception was the assumed posture of politicians, news outlets, and the very platforms that we were using to accuse others of lyin’. We may never recenter on an agreed-upon objective truth again. But Fraser’s Vine—goofy, vulgar, and catchy as hell—will be the lighthouse that guides our ships through the long, factless night.
4. The Llamas, the Law, and the Wardrobe (February 26, 2015)
Aggregate Happiness: 4
Viral Moments: The llama chase (5), the Dress (5),
Historic Events: FCC passes net neutrality rules (4)
Total Score: 18
The llamas were black and white. The dress was white and gold (don’t @ me, science). Combined, they created one of the most colorful days in internet history. It began when a pair of llamas, with the regal names of Kahkneeta and Laney, escaped from a retirement community where they’d been brought to entertain senior citizens. In a moment of foolish inattention by one of their handlers, the duo broke free of their reins and made a journey through the streets of Sun City, Arizona, that could have easily doubled as the plot of Homeward Bound 3. They took over highways and broke cops’ ankles. They pranced down sidewalks. Eventually, they were lassoed by a mysterious wrangler in a black pickup truck who disappeared into the desert haze as suddenly as he had arrived. And all of this was streamed live by news helicopters. Again, I plead: Make this a summer blockbuster.
Just a couple of hours after the llamas were captured, BuzzFeed published an article entitled “What Colors Are This Dress?” It’s hard to say that this brought people happiness, per se—as you read this, you may feel a renewed sense of frustration at those who couldn’t see the dress the way you did—but it sparked intense debate around the world. It set a traffic record on BuzzFeed and generated more than 10 million tweets. The Dress made trivial bullshit seem like the highest-stakes argument of our digital lives. Today, the line between which arguments matter and which are distractions to while away the online hours have been completely blurred. I’m not saying the Dress got Trump elected, but if that take will go viral and improve my ability to monetize my brand, then yes, of course I’m saying the Dress got Trump elected.
Even the serious part of the internet was cool on this February 26. The Federal Communications Commission passed new net neutrality rules that prevented ISPs from discriminating against certain types of content or placing specific websites on internet “fast lanes.” Though the rules were later rescinded by a Trump appointee, they were at the time the culmination of a decadeslong fight over internet freedom. People were understandably ecstatic.
3. “Hello,” Is It Too Late Now to Drop “Sorry”? (October 23, 2015)
Aggregate Happiness: 10
Music Releases: “Hello” by Adele (5), “Sorry” by Justin Bieber (4)
Viral Moments: The New York Times Magazine asks whether you would kill Baby Hitler (1)
Total Score: 20
At the end of this year, many publications will compile Best Songs of the Decade lists. Many of these lists will include “Hello” by Adele and “Sorry” by Justin Bieber. These songs will be included partly because they’re catchy and have massive hooks, and partly because both became inescapable when they debuted on the same Friday in October 2015. “Hello,” a torch ballad that sounds just as nostalgic as its sepia-toned video, made the bigger initial splash. It spawned memes not because it was engineered to, “Hotline Bling”–style, but because it was too big a cultural juggernaut to not prompt remixes and spoofs. The best ones revolved around Adele’s fierce snapping of her flip phone at the start of the music video.
“Sorry” was less a blockbuster event than a persuasive argument that won over non-Beliebers throughout the course of several months. Still, the song started building its case that day in October, with its jubilant, colorful music video featuring a female dance crew and no Justin. “Sorry” would go on to become Bieber’s second-most streamed song on Spotify (behind “Love Yourself”), and the 11th-most-streamed song in the history of the platform. “Hello” broke multiple first-day streaming records. These are the kinds of songs that would have had elaborate MTV rollouts in a past era, either on TRL or their own half-hour specials. Instead, they were simply put online. Rabid fans, social media algorithms, and traffic-hungry media outlets did the rest.
It’s also important to note that this was the day in 2015 when The New York Times Magazine asked Twitter users whether they’d travel back in time and kill baby Hitler. Like ranking Kanye albums or debating whether America was, in fact, “already great,” this instantly became one of those circular online arguments that leads nowhere. But this specific iteration was wildly entertaining.
2. Left Shark, Tom Brady, Missy Elliott, and Waffle House Create the Greatest Super Bowl Sunday Ever (February 1, 2015)
Aggregate Happiness: 8
Internet Celebrations: Harry Styles’s birthday (4)
Movie Trailers: Jurassic World (1)
Sports Moments: Patriots win a classic Super Bowl (3—I deducted 2 points because it’s the Patriots)
Viral Moments: Left Shark (4), Missy Elliott makes a surprise halftime show appearance (3); Kanye and Co. visit Waffle House (1)
Total Score: 24
The majesty of this day really began the night before, when a dancing Chrissy Teigen, a bemused John Legend, a glamorous Kim Kardashian, and a glowering Kanye West rolled up on a Glendale, Arizona, Waffle House for an extremely late dinner. Kanye seemed to have a much better time at an Atlanta Waffle House with OutKast a few months later, but this nonetheless was a strong start to one of the most bizarre, entertaining days in internet history.
The main event, of course, was Super Bowl XLIX between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks. The matchup had already produced ample meme fodder before it kicked off—the Patriots achieved true supervillain status with Deflategate, while Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch created the nine-to-five anthem “I’m just here so I don’t get fined” mere days before the game. Then the bout itself turned out to be the rare Super Bowl worthy of the hype, ultimately decided when Malcolm Butler intercepted a Russell Wilson pass at the 1-yard line with 20 seconds left in regulation. Yes, the waning moments of the 28-24 thriller ushered in the Patriots’ First Order era as an evil empire reborn, but the game is still widely regarded as one of most exciting Super Bowls of all time.
That’s not why February 1, 2015, was one of the happiest online days ever, though. The internet’s collective joy peaked during the Super Bowl halftime show, which elicited mockery, exuberance, sympathy, solidarity, and many, many GIFs all in the span of 12 minutes. Let’s list the notable moments in chronological order.
- 0:12: Katy Perry stands atop a giant animatronic lion which can only be described as her personal Megazord.
- 0:19: As Perry screams “Super Bowl, are you ready to rock?” it becomes clear she is dressed like a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
- 3:05: Lenny Kravitz emerges from a revolving platform and starts singing a rock version of “I Kissed a Girl” that would have been a smash hit in 2008, when “I Kissed a Girl” came out.
- 4:20: Two people in anthropomorphic shark suits wander onto the stage as the first chords of “Teenage Dream” start playing. They attempt to bump chests, but miss.
- 5:40: The shark on the left, henceforth referred to as Left Shark, is very obviously offbeat in his dance routine.
- 6:32: Left Shark runs across the stage directly through the area where Perry and several bikini-clad dancers are in the middle of “California Gurls.” It’s unclear whether the run is part of the show’s choreography, but it raises the question: Is Left Shark drunk?
- 7:15: Missy Elliott materializes onstage wearing a “Rhythm Nation”–like tracksuit and starts rapping “Get Your Freak On.” Anderson Cooper, among others, stans a legend.
- 9:01: Missy starts playing “Lose Control” while the ground below her turns into a laser-light show. Some people should’ve known better than to start tweeting stupid questions like “Who is Missy Elliott?”
- 10:58: Perry is lifted on a platform that’s attached to a huge shooting star. It looks similar to the “The More You Know” NBC logo. Super Bowl XLIX was broadcast on NBC. Coincidence?
The performances by Perry and Missy were both legitimately great, but it was Left Shark who catapulted to superstardom because of the halftime show. There were memes. There were Reddit investigations. There were T-shirts. There were We Are All Left Shark think pieces. Three years later, NPR did a follow-up interview with the man inside the suit, Bryan Gaw, who claimed that his offbeat dancing was part of a freestyle choreography routine meant to “play a different character.” Sure, Jaws. Whatever the case, Left Shark drove tons of online engagement. This was a great day to be internetting.
1. Obama Sings “Amazing Grace” the Day Gay Marriage Is Legalized (June 26, 2015)
Aggregate Happiness: 10
Internet Celebrations: Ariana Grande’s birthday (2)
Music Releases: “All Eyes on You” by Meek Mill and Nicki Minaj (2)
Historic Events: Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage (5); President Barack Obama sings “Amazing Grace” at funeral of Charleston shooting victim (5)
Pop Culture Announcements: J.K. Rowling announces the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (2)
Total Score: 26
So far I have listed Vines, music videos, celebrity birthdays, and viral carnivorous fish, the types of entertainment that have long made the internet a joyous reprieve from the troubles of the real world. But June 26, 2015, was special because the real world and the online world collided in a way that, for once, improved our ability to appreciate both of them.
It started at 10:07 a.m. ET, when the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling that same-sex marriage was legal throughout the country. For young Americans, it was the single biggest expansion of civil rights they had observed in their lifetimes. The decision produced an outpouring of digital jubilation that may never be replicated. The hashtag #LoveWins was used 5.5 million times on Twitter. Twenty-six million people added a rainbow filter to their Facebook profile picture. Virtually every brand and celebrity found a way to show solidarity with a decadeslong human rights movement that had arrived at a momentous milestone. (Personally, I dug the typically buttoned-up SCOTUSblog dunking on Twitter trolls.) Most moving were the stories and photos of couples rushing to the courthouse to get married and the intimate, personal testimonials that populated individual news feeds. There had never been this type of collective, national online celebration over something that impacted so many people’s lives in a positive way. There may never be again.
Later that afternoon in Charleston, South Carolina, Barack Obama delivered a eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney. The pastor and state senator was one of nine members of Mother Emanuel AME Church who was brutally murdered days prior by Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old terrorist and white supremacist. Roof had self-radicalized by visiting the darkest corners of the internet; his attack was a harbinger of the violent racism that would spill over from the online world to the real one in the years to come.
But Obama chose, as was his custom, to strike a tone of optimism with his remarks. I remember watching the livestream at work, and I rewatched the eulogy for the first time last week. It’s an incredible rhetorical performance. About 12 minutes in, the characteristic crispness of Obama’s voice relaxes into a slight drawl—his speech turns into a sermon. About 16 minutes in, the audience starts filling in the silences with shouts, starting a rhythm of call-and-response that will sound familiar to anyone who’s ever sat in the pew of a black church. About 19 minutes in, an organ rumbles to life. This all builds to an inevitable finale that still shocked me, and everyone else, when it happened: Obama closed his remarks by singing “Amazing Grace.”
This was the moment that turned a 38-minute rumination on racism, gun violence, and a divided America into something that could easily be shared and blogged. People posted GIFs of aunties catching the Holy Ghost and made album covers for Barack’s R&B debut. #ReverendPresident and #ObamaHadMeLike became popular hashtags. It was a necessary release as people tried to process the horror of the Charleston attack, and there was a certain joy in seeing the president of the United States so naturally rooted in the traditions of the black church, then extending the congregation across the expanse of Twitter.
But it’s the substance of the speech that will live on because it captured so much about what defined Obama and his presidency. He responded to a deadly act intended to stoke anger by calling for unity, generosity, and a willingness to understand the perspectives of others. “It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families [of the shooting victims] if we merely slipped into old habits,” he said, “whereby those who disagreed with us are not merely wrong but bad. Where we shout instead of listen. Where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.”
These ideals feel a universe away from our current national discourse, which is even more inflamed now than it was when Donald Trump took office. And that’s what sets June 26, 2015, apart as the happiest day on the internet. It wasn’t just memes and goofy videos that brought us together online. It was a shared optimism that the United States could embrace love and denounce hate in a way that honored the dignity of all its residents. If the internet’s best days are behind it, then so too are America’s, because this is now the place that shapes the contours of our democracy, celebrates our progress, and speaks out against our missteps. “Justice,” Obama said on the internet’s best day, “grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other.”
That night the White House was bathed in every color of the rainbow to commemorate the gay marriage ruling. Thousands of Americans gathered outside the building to celebrate. “To see people gathered in the evening on a beautiful summer night and to feel whole and to feel accepted and to feel they had a right to love, that was pretty cool,” Obama said. For those who couldn’t visit in person, a photo of the display was posted on the White House Facebook page. It was widely viewed, shared, liked, and loved.