/ 26 November 2022

Unforgettable social media moments

Social Media Getty
Posting intimate details of our of our personal and professional online gives cybercriminals valuable information. (Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The South African Social Media Awards (Sasma) are coming up on 26 November, celebrating the country’s best digital brands, influencers and marketing moments. Fashion, food, fitness and emerging talents are recognised for their contribution to the world of memes, viral moments and trends. 

But one does not have to be a mega influencer, “meme lord” or content creator to be a part of the social media scene. Morning routines, lunch breaks and evening wind-downs  often involve scrolling our Twitter, Instagram TikTok feeds. 

The Sasmas will crown their choice of the best on social media but we’ve picked some of our own favourite moments. Posts on social media have an ephemeral quality but down the line can make us feel nostalgic, some even make their way into the daily lexicon, they can be serious or silly, poke fun but, most importantly, they often make us laugh. 

Saint Champagne Lounge 

The swanky Saint Champagne Bar and Lounge speaks to the new kind of social capital that comes with Instagram’s flex culture. On Instagram we see people enjoying a night out, popping bottles of bubbly, decked out head-to-toe in designer pieces and ice on the wrists. But what Instagram doesn’t show is that they walked out without paying their bill. 

Saint takes the line “champagne for my real friends … real pain for my sham friends”, by exposing on their Instagram account guests who leave without paying their heavy bill racked up during a night at the bar. A typical post might read, “You only have 12 hours to pay your outstanding and overdue payment balances. Should you not pay your balances we have no choice but to make your identities public on social media with your outstanding amounts.” 

Their name-and-shame strategy had everyone talking about who Saint was going to expose on their Instagram at 7pm, how much these people owed and if — and why — they couldn’t afford their bar tabs, yet flexed their success online. 

Were you silent or silenced? 

The legendary Oprah Winfrey is no stranger to being meme-ified for her zealous gift-giving, wholesome lifestyle and cult of personality. Winfrey’s way with words lends itself to the world of viral memes. 

During a March 2021 interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Winfrey asks Markle, “Were you silent or were you silenced,” accompanied by a silky-smooth hand gesture, miming a zip being closed. 

On 8 March, Twitter user @theerkj tweeted the clip with the caption, “were you silent or siLENcED *eyebrows*”, which received more than 4.7 million views in less than a week. 

Twitter meme creators grabbed this moment and ran with it, moving the question away from Markle and redirecting it to the lambs in the film Silence of the Lambs, the letter “g” in lasagne or recreating interviews with Ariel from the Little Mermaid. The best kind of flash-in-the-pan memes are the phrases and clips as a reaction video and a punchline to jokes. 

Negroni sbagliato 

Every summer has its must-have drink and 2019 was the year of the Aperol spritz, in 2021 it was the espresso martini and, thus far, 2022 is the year of the negroni sbagliato, thanks to House of Dragon star Emma d’Arcy who revealed it as her favourite drink. 

“A negroni.” Pause. “Sbagliato.” Another pause. “With prosecco in it!” says D’Arcy. 

Instantly, bartenders went from making negronis with gin, sweet vermouth, Campari and orange to the viral negroni sbagliato that switches the gin for prosecco. Viral TikToks have a tendency to leave the app and make their way into the real world. It won’t be surprising if the negroni sbagliato becomes a mainstay on restaurant and bar menus in the near future. 

Tito Mboweni loves garlic

Remember 2020 when everyone moonlighted as home bakers and chefs? Banana bread recipes, sourdough advice and the realisation that everyone measures garlic with their heart were the only things on social media for a hot minute. 

Minister of finance at the time, Tito Mboweni – known to tweet his home cooking efforts – took everyone’s love for garlic to absurd new levels in a series of tweets. Mboweni went from balancing the books to balancing flavours as he mistook a recipe’s call for cloves of garlic for entire heads of garlic, earning him the title “minister of cooking”. 

Finally, in August 2022, Mboweni took cooking advice from Twitter and tweeted: “By popular demand, I am reducing the amount of garlic. Regrettably.” 

Is the ship still stuck?

When news broke in March 2021 that massive container ship the Ever Given was stuck in Egypt’s Suez Canal, memes flooded timelines. Before the 400m ship was wedged across the canal, blocking the shipping route, few people paid attention to the canal. It seemed there wasn’t a person online — qualified or unqualified — who didn’t look at it and think, “Just turn it” or “I could fix it.” The memes and online discourse that came out of the Suez Canal saga shifted this from a news event to a modern pop-culture reference with relatable musings and political undertones. 


The incident wasn’t didn’t spark serious debate on shipping routes and global trade on social media but the conversation was alive via jokes, parodies and memes. The URL istheshipstillstuck.com was purchased and the Ever Given can still be tracked today. Spoiler alert — the ship is not still stuck but the memes definitely have. 

Adam Levine’s DMs

The DM’s of Maroon 5’s frontman Adam Levine have been described as “perfect for the meme machine”. In September, a number of screenshots — the internet’s favourite weapon — surfaced that showed the singer sending flirtatious messages to women, although he’s married to Namibian-born model Behati Prinsloo. 

In an Instagram Story, Levine admitted to chatting to women “in a flirtatious manner” but did not speak of physical affairs. More women came forward. 

The celebrity relatability of Levine’s texts — seeing someone so polished be so cringy — and the fact that they read as if written by a  teenage boy made them super meme-able. A “booty” text such as, “It is truly unreal how f*****g hot you are … Like it blows my mind,” was remixed to show love for mozzarella sticks and the porridge eaten in the Goldilocks fairy tale — even language app Duolingo hopped on the meme train. 

Julia Fox’s Uncut Gems 

Julia Fox, the actress who appeared in the 2019 film Uncut Gems, was the subject of many memes and trending TikToks which mocked her pronunciation of the film’s name. In an episode of the podcast Call Her Daddy, Fox says: “I was [the film’s director] Josh Safdie’s muse when he wrote Uncut Gems.” She pronounces it “Uncuh Jahmz”. 

TikTok users simply saying “uncuh jahmz” to their cameras went as viral as the original clip. A TikTok by @carolineagelen went viral because she was doing what we were all doing: saying “uncuh jahmz” out loud while doing anything and everything from folding laundry and cooking to just hanging out. 

Khaby Lame gets Italian citizenship 

TikTok has taken over other social media platforms as number one in short-form videos. On the platform it is easy to gain thousands of views, a little harder to reach millions of views, but even harder to gain millions of followers because users don’t actually have to follow their favourite accounts to regularly see their videos. Therefore, whoever sits at the top as most followed on TikTok is there for a reason. 

For more than two years, the spot of the number one most-followed TikTok user was held by American dancer Charli d’Amelio, according to TechCrunch, but she was dethroned by Senegalise-born user Khaby Lame, who currently has 152.3 million followers. 

Lame’s TikToks are known for mocking other people’s posts and comically over-exaggerated life-hack videos. Lame’s spot as number one on TikTok, like viral memes, had real-life impact. After living in Italy since 2001, Lame was finally awarded Italian citizenship, which exposed flaws in Italy’s citizenship policies and the barriers faced by African creators on a global stage.