40 Times People Stumbled Upon Something Hilarious On Wikipedia And It Ended Up Being Shared In This Online Group
Wikipedia is huge. As of 19 May 2022, there are 6,500,765 articles in its English version, containing over 4 billion words and 55,804,737 pages. It's so big that no person can possibly expect to scroll through everything on their own. We need help. Someone who can sort out the good stuff and present it in byte-size tidbits. Someoone like Annie Rauwerda.
In April 2020, then-sophomore at the University of Michigan, Rauwerda got bored being stuck at home and ended up spending countless hours on the internet.
Passing the time, she came up with an idea for a spontaneous quarantine project and created a new Instagram account, called 'depths of wikipedia.' Flash forward to now, and her online baby has upwards of 800,000 followers, spread across multiple social media platforms.
But its core concept remains the same: Rauwerda curates funny, silly, and weird snippets from Wikipedia and shares them with the world.
For Rauwerda, Wikipedia has always been more about entertainment rather than academic work: spending hours clicking on one link after another, getting lost in rabbit holes.
“Wikipedia is the best thing on the internet," she told The New York Times. "It's what the internet was supposed to be. It has this hacker ethos of working together and making something.”
At first, only her friends were following her account but it received a lot of attention when she posted about the influencer Caroline Calloway, who was upset that the post featured an old version of her Wikipedia page that said her occupation was "nothing." Rauwerda apologized, and Ms. Calloway later boosted the account on her own Instagram.
As mentioned, Rauwerda has since expanded her project and now she also sells merchandise (such as a coffee mug emblazoned with an image from the Wikipedia entry for "bisexual lighting") and hosts live shows.
Her followers often suggest her Wikipedia pages to feature, but she's become hard to impress. "If it's a fun fact that's been on the Reddit home page, I'm definitely not going to repost it," she said.
"For example, there are only 25 blimps in the world. I've known about that for a long time, and it went around Twitter a couple of days ago. I was shocked. I was like, 'Everyone knows this.'"
She has to be this choosy because many of her followers expect 'depths of wikipedia' to give them something they haven't seen before.
"I just love to learn stuff, especially these strange photos and things I could never find on my own,” 15-year-old high school student Gabe Hockett told The New York Times. He said his favorite posts from the account include 'The Most Unwanted Song' and the 'Dave Matthews Band Chicago River incident.'
Jen Fox, 22, said that trading posts from the account with her boyfriend has become their "special, nerdy love language" as well as a litmus test for friendships.
When Ms. Fox, a copywriter, moved to San Francisco in February, she would mention the account to new people she met, and if they were familiar with it, they would start DM-ing each other and sharing their favorite posts, which felt like they were really solidifying a concrete friendship.
Talking to The Michigan Daily, Rauwerda said that she started receiving so many DMs that she can't even read them all.
"When I post a lot of stories and I start getting story responses, then it gets to be a lot. It's so nice because all these people are usually sending really sweet and thoughtful things. I definitely try to acknowledge them, maybe like the message, but unfortunately, I just don’t have enough time and diligence to send something heartfelt back to everyone."
The majority of DMs she receives are people saying things like, "Oh, you should definitely post about this," and we would not believe how many repeats there are if she told us.
"At this point, I’ve posted something like 700 different things, and so many of the things people submit are things that I’ve already posted. But then other times people will send things that are really interesting, and sometimes I’ll be like 'Oh, I gotta save that for later.'"
But Rauwerda isn't just "borrowing" stuff from Wikipedia. She's also contributing to it by editing articles.
"Overall, the process is very easy," she said. "First, you would make an account, and then press the little pencil icon on an article. There are some pages for more controversial issues, like the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine or abortion, that are often vandalized. For those pages, you would have to have an account for a certain amount of time and have made a certain number of good edits before you’re allowed to edit them."
However, she said that even many new editors might feel unsure of what to fix. At least that's what she was going through in the beginning. But as you dig deeper, opportunities start to present themselves.
"There are so many pages that are just kind of 'meh.' Right now, a lot of obscure pages are just really poorly written or have outdated sources, and there's a lot of maintenance that is required to have an encyclopedia so big. There are topics within so many subfields that I feel like people with so many diverse interests could find a really nice niche if they wanted to."
"There’s a lot of rules, though," Rauwerda added. "I try so hard to follow the rules, but even now sometimes I'll blatantly violate something by accident. If you're not sure about an edit you can go to the 'Talk' page of the article, which is the 'behind the scenes' where editors talk about what the page should be like, and then ask."
But if that sounds too much of a hassle, you can thank Wikipedia for everything it has done by donating to it. Every dollar helps!