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#10yearchallenge conspiracy goes viral

5 minutes to read
Nataliia Vdovychenko

For weeks, we have been trying to defend our timelines from the #10yearchallenge. Or maybe we have participated in it ourselves, making a collage of pictures in a ‘before and after’ style. Because of the quick algorithmic boost, the challenge became very popular online within a few days. The participation of millions of internet users provoked many suspicions concerning the trend. What are the real aims of the movement?


To participate in the #10yearchallenge, the user uploads two pictures of him/herself comparing the changes in appearance between ten years ago and today. One then posts these using the #10yearchallenge for searchability and recognition of the post being a part of the challenge. The pictures of 2009 vs. 2019 were spread on various social media. Only on Instagram, there are over 4,1 million posts with the hashtag. (08.02.2019)

The high popularity of the challenge was due to the spectacle of unpredictable results. Some participants almost did not age at all, while others changed their appearance drastically.

Actress Reese Witherspoon participating in #10yearchallenge on her Instagram account with over 1 million likes

The movement was quickly picked up by celebrities with millions of followers, who witnessed their changes. Such popular personalities as Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Kate Hudson, Reese Witherspoon, Anne Hathaway, Dua Lipa, and others, rushed to post pictures and videos of the differences they have gone through.

Tyra Banks sharing her changes on her Instagram account

#10yearchallange meme

In line with the people who took the challenge seriously, there were thousands of responses mocking the popular hashtag. #10yearchallenge became a way to make fun of something that used to be better a decade ago.

Toblerone chocolate 2009 vs. 2019


Nokia battery comparison

In numerous variations, internet users mocked politicians, technology, health issues, fashion, financial crisis, climate change, and others. #10yearchallange became a way of not just having fun, but also of expressing concerns and drawing attention to social issues.

Climate change visualization

Internet users comparing Obama and Trump

Conspiracies around the #10yearchallenge

After the intense boost of the online movement, many internet users started wondering about the deeper goals of the challenge. Many connected it to machine learning and face recognition algorithms.

Kate O'Neill, Professor in the Department of Environmental Science at Berkeley shares her concerns about the #10yearchallenge

Indeed, the possibility of the challenge to be a scam to optimize the face recognition systems of social media engines is quite high. It opens up new horizons in targeted advertising. Being able to recognize the apparent age of a user could give the age-specific product ads a great advantage and result in millions of dollars of profit.

#10yearchallange conspiracy

What is next?

The discussions surrounding the challenge are not at all surprising. Users, who hear daily about data leaks, fake news, and privacy scandals of online platforms become more mindful of all kinds of hyped social movements.

Perhaps, we are starting to experience a breaking point when users treat their accounts more responsibly. However, as for now, 4,1 million Instagram posts could be contributing to the new type of advertising, that we might see in the near future.