There’s nothing inherently special about the phrase “Hi again.” But as tweeted by Cher one July afternoon, the words took on a new significance—and quickly achieved virality. Why this tweet, why now? Some of it was internet alchemy, impossible to explain. Part of it was simply that she’s Cher. Her Twitter feed is art. When she says “Hi again,” it’s just … funny.
But it was also hard to ignore that Cher’s tweet provided perfect fodder for the world’s most feel-good pile-on.
Suddenly, “Hi again” was everywhere. While it looked on its face like everyone was dunking on Cher—a truly sad thought—what was happening was actually something else: This was a friendlier cousin of the dunk, in which “Hi again,” having achieved meme status, became a perfect rejoinder to almost any frustrating recurring activity, the ultimate relatable content. You could just plug it in.
Even Cher herself didn’t understand the full scope of what her words had become, as she tweeted a few days later:
How did these two little words become a meme? Because of the quote-tweet function, the source of as much darkness as social-media light.
Retweeting a post and adding some commentary of your own has been standard practice on Twitter for years, and it was codified in 2015 with the introduction of the quote-tweet, which places a user’s message above the quoted message of another. Quote-tweets led to the rise of dunking (which we’ve written about before), the dark art wherein, instead of amplifying or adding to a point, an earlier tweet becomes merely the setup to a punchline that points out how dumb, wrong, or otherwise lacking it actually is. A well-placed dunk can be hilarious and immensely satisfying; at the same time, only a bully would go around dunking on people all the time, especially people who aren’t public figures or who have a lot fewer followers than the dunker. It’s one of those punching up/punching down things.
But making a “Hi again” joke shows that quote-tweets don’t have to be all about political point-scoring. If dunking is a zero-sum game, this type of joke is more like spinning a basketball on your finger: The goal is merely to entertain. It’s a way to deploy the quote-tweet feature without descending into vitriol. Sure, you’re laughing a little at the expense of the Chers of the world (hi again!), but it’s mostly all in good fun, a harmless little tweemix.
Take this Drake tweet from six years ago that recently resurfaced, as these things do:
Once again, Twitter users took an out-of-context post as a jumping-off point, mostly to mock themselves for everyday problems and internet-specific feelings.
Even brands are doing it.
In a way, these are like reverse Mad Libs: Instead of plugging in a random phrase, you insert a provided phrase into a random narrative. It’s a game with endless permutations and, in theory, one you can play with any weird non sequitur of a celebrity tweet. You’ll find that just about any Kanye tweet works.
These quote-tweets feel like a return to an earlier iteration of Twitter, when word games like #AddAWordRuinAMovie frequently populated the list of trending topics and the platform generally more resembled a place to be clever and creative with strangers rather than somewhere to scream about politics and fight off Nazis. Twitter shows occasional flashes of still being that blissfully random place, and this thing where we make up little stories and jokes based on strange tweets from famous people is one of them.
The game probably works best when Twitter users are ragging on a tweet from someone they generally have positive associations with because the goal is to have fun rather than get distracted thinking about how genuinely evil Person X Who Tweeted Something Weird is. But it cannot be denied that sometimes a Trump tweet fits the bill.
This game also thrives on a good ol’ butt tweet (as in a tweet posted accidentally, perhaps by a phone in someone’s back pocket). For example, a week and change ago, Rudy Giuliani posted the word “You”—just “You”—and you can probably guess what happened next.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey suffered much the same fate this past weekend after (presumably accidentally) posting the word “The” on its own.
Twitter can be the source of endless frustrations: the hate speech, the potential for viral embarrassment, the ever-present danger of saying something dumb and getting ratioed, the threat of something you said years ago coming back to haunt you … the list goes on. Finding the perfect weird celebrity tweet to meme-ify is a small way to make Twitter fun again. So let the games begin. What are you gonna do? Say no?