By now, you've probably heard of "Alex from Target," the blond, surfer-slash-Justin Bieber looking dude who took the Internet by storm this week when his photo was posted to Twitter Sunday. (If you haven't, heard of him consider yourself blessed.)
Despite people on Twitter not knowing anything about him other than his looks, Alex achieved inexplicable, instantaneous Internet fame. The original tweet received over 4,000 retweets, myriad media outlets picked up on the story (Why, CNN. Just ... why.) and Alex himself even made an appearance on the Ellen show. Target, never one to miss a marketing opportunity, also cashed in on the craze. Just take a look at massive number of tweets about #AlexFromTarget" since November 2:
That's over 1.5 million tweets since Alex entered the Internet's consciousness. All because he's conventionally attractive? Works at one of the country's biggest retailers? A sweet, innocent boy caught up in a tsunami of digital enthusiasm?
Unfortunately, the phenomenon may have shadowy origins. The Washington Post's Caitlin Dewey reports that shortly after Alex broke the Internet, a marketing company called Breakr claimed responsibility for the photo, explaining that the girl who posted the original tweet was actually one of their users. However, she — and later Alex himself — denied ever working with Breakr. Dil-Domine Jacobe Leonares, the company's founder, later backtracked and told Buzzfeed that #AlexfromTarget was a chain reaction that his company just happened to be a part of. As Dewey writes,
"[E]vents that play out on the Internet are not necessarily like things that play out in real life. In real life, there are specific witnesses and linear timelines and objective evidence that can be logged and analyzed. Online phenomena, on the other hand, are witnessed by thousands, maybe millions of people, who interpret what they're seeing in different, occasionally contradictory ways."
Regardless of where he came from, it's clear at this point that Alex from Target is renowned for absolutely nothing. There are many more teenagers worthy of our time and adoration out there — young men and women who are actually working to improve the lives of others and who, if we're being honest, are much more badass than most of the adult population. Let's take a look at some, shall we?
Saira Blair, an 18-year-old, just became the youngest lawmaker in the country after she soundly defeated her 44-year-old opponent with 63% of the vote. She'll now serve as a representative in the West Virginia House of Delegates for one of the state's eastern districts. The Wall Street Journal reported that Blair is also a freshman at the University of West Virginia and did the majority of her campaigning out of her dorm room.
"The average age in Congress is 57, and the average age in the U.S. Senate is 62, but with all of that experience, we've only gotten more debt and less jobs," she told Teen Vogue. "I don't see how I could possibly hurt anything by being young and coming in with a fresh perspective.
Andy Gonzales and Sophie Houser
Sophie Houser, 17, and Andy Gonzalez, 16, are the brains behind Tampon Run, a video game they created while attending the Girls Who Code summer immersion program. The side-scrolling game involves a character who runs down the street using tampons as a weapon. As Mic's Michael McCutcheon noted, "the goal [of the game] isn't to build an arsenal and go all Rambo ... it's to challenge the idea that in society, we're more comfortable with guns and violence than we are with teaching girls to be comfortable with their bodies."
The girls told Mic that the game had been played more than 100,000 times online and that they were hard at work coding a mobile version. "By having a lot more diversity [in the industry], it means the ideas and the products that come out of it will relate to a lot more people," Houser said.
Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, Faleke Oluwatoyin and Bello Eniola
Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, Faleke Oluwatoyin and Bello Eniola, four Nigerian girls who are all between the ages of 14 and 15, created a way to use urine as fuel. Using their invention, it's possible to convert 1 liter of urine to six hours of electricity from a generator. Though they're not the first ones to come up with the idea, their creation is notable because it can be used in a practical setting.
At the age of 19 — a time when most of us were sleeping until 1 p.m. and eating Cheetos in our underwear — Boyan Slat designed a floating structure that can take in 70,000 metric tons of plastic from the Pacific Ocean. Given humankind's unyielding affinity for dumping toxic plastic into the ocean, Slat's creation is much needed.
Not content with simply creating something to solve the problem, Slat is also concerned with making sure we fix our bad habits. "Although a cleanup will have a profound effect," he said in a news release, "it is just part of the solution."
Emer Hickey, Sophie Healy-Thow and Ciara Judge
Emer Hickey, Sophie Healy-Thow and Ciara Judge — 16, 17 and 16, respectively — devised a way to solve world hunger by injecting a naturally occurring strain of bacteria into barley and oats. The result? The crop's yield increased by 75%.
"It has a lot of implications," Hickey said. "By the year 2050 we actually need 50% more food just to feed everyone." Proving that teenage geniuses apparently don't take breathers, Hickey also added, "We're not even finished yet."
Alex from Target may have an army of Internet supporters that rival the Beliebers behind him — not to mention a veritable encyclopedia of media stories detailing his newfound fame — but his flimsily constructed stardom is nothing more than a flash in the pan in the eyes of the restless horde that is the Internet. If the entire Internet is going to fixate on teenagers, it should at least pick ones who are making a difference.