Reddit appears to have answered the question of how long a meme will take to die out: two months and four days.
That’s how long what started as an April Fool’s Day post ran for and how long it took the online community to tire of pressing a virtual button.
Back in April a new subreddit appeared complete with a virtual button and a 60 second countdown. It was set up such that any user could press the button and reset the countdown to 60 seconds. However, you had to have a reddit account to press the button, each account holder could only press the button once, and it only worked for accounts registered before the experiment/prank started.
To make things more lively, users who pressed the button would then have a dot appear next to their user name, with the color depending on how close the countdown had come on the last press, with red showing the nearest of misses.
As usual with reddit, it prompted all sorts of online cooperation and competition, with some groups committed to keeping the button live, others working to try to ensure the time would run out and reveal what would then happen, and yet others playing daredevil and trying to work it so the button got pressed at the last possible moment. It appears the system was set up so that when “0” appeared on the countdown, there’d actually be one remaining second for somebody to press the button before whatever happened happened.
In the end just over a million accounts pressed the button. According to The Guardian, the end came amid a campaign that involved users ‘donating’ their account to automatically press the button at a scheduled interval, with 1,440 accounts needed every day to be certain of prolonging the “fun” and avoiding relying on spontaneous presses.
Unfortunately the people coordinating the donated accounts didn’t adequately vet their creation date and eventually one of them turned out to have been created after April 1st and the relevant button press was rejected. It’s possible that may have happened before, but on this occasion no other user was around to press the button manually.
Those expecting fireworks were out of luck. The completed countdown simply led to a message reading “The experiment is over.”