I noticed something a bit strange as I was scrolling through my Twitter feed last weekend: I was being bombarded with unicorns.
#BelieveinYOUnicorns was a top trending topic, and, after poking around, I found out I was late to the party to celebrate National Unicorn Day.
I wasn't aware of April 9's sparkly significance — Unicorn Day wasn't marked on Google, or even on my wall calendar. I only found out via the hashtag, which was undoubtedly how all the revelers now sharing horn-filtered selfies discovered their new favorite day a minute before their post.
I hated every single tweet.
I hated every single tweet. I, dear reader, am a hashtag holiday grinch. While everyone else shares their take on the latest National [insert trite item here] Day hashtag, I stew behind my phone screen, glowering down on the Whoville that is the internet community at large.
Mostly, it's because I'm no fun. I'm a bit of a grinch for normal holidays and in everyday life, too. This is a real Christmas stocking a friend made for me in college:
Something like National Unicorn Day is so frivolous and inorganic and trendy that it was sure to get under my grizzled, grinchy skin. To be fair, the holiday appears to be a real thing in Scotland, where the unicorn is the national animal — but the internet got hold of it, and twisted it for its own means.
What really irked me about National Unicorn Day was something I've noticed with other social media holidays: a brand's attempt to dominate the conversation. Ice Breakers mints, which has an ad campaign revolving around unicorns for some reason, made the day its own.
Ice Breakers leaned hard into National Unicorn Day, introducing special stickers and even a Snapchat filter in the lead-up to the day. The efforts appear to have actually paid off, given the attention given to the trend — but the brand looks beyond thirsty as a result.
At press time, Ice Breakers' Twitter page still has the National Unicorn Day graphic as its header photo, which is the online brand equivalent of leaving your Christmas lights on your house through the summer. C'mon, guys.
Sure, some of these hashtag holidays aren't the worst thing in the world. National Siblings Day encouraged people to show some extra love to their brothers and sisters earlier this week — not mine, because apparently grinching runs in my family — and I'll never argue with the validity of National Puppy Day because, as we all know, they're good dogs.
But according to the National Day Calendar, there are over 1,500 "national days" on the books. 1,500. Let me remind you that there are 365 days in a year. That means there are roughly 4 of these holidays every day, which makes them all the less important.
There's just something inauthentic as the National Day of This follows the National Day of That until they all run together that to me exposes the cheap, half-assed engagement patterns we can fall into with the trends that ebb and flow through social media. It's the same type of behavior that makes slacktivism feel like IRL engagement and creates the online echo chambers that have helped warp our sense of reality.
The internet has an awesome potential to bring people together and share information. There are definitely worse ways to harness the democratizing power of social media, but celebrating fake holidays certainly isn't one of the best.
In other words, #bahhumbug.