In just one summer, Baby Gronk rizzed up Livvy Dunne and made everyone on the internet descend into a frenzy. The internet’s viral memes, often appearing incomprehensible, captivate our attention and give us a glimpse into the future. These trends include a billionaire submarine vanishing, the anticipation of the first presidential mugshot, and the prevalence of AI-generated images that trick our perception. Midjourney’s AI image generator created hyper-realistic outputs that went viral, ultimately resulting in fake montages of high-profile figures such as Pope Francis II and Donald Trump. The generative AI images served as a cautionary tale of how fake news can proliferate across the internet. The global anticipation of Donald Trump’s mugshot becoming public provided a strange new element to political staging, as both Democrats and Republicans took advantage of the image. These events ushered in a new era of politicians adopting internet-friendly tactics, exemplified by the actions of George Santos, who transformed from a disgraced former congressman into a viral sensation with a penchant for self-promotion. In addition, a summer scandal involving Colleen Ballinger, creator of the YouTube character Miranda Sings, drew widespread attention for its bizarre resolution. Colleen Ballinger aired a YouTube apology for allegedly grooming minors in the form of a catchy 10-minute ukulele song. Despite the song’s popularity, the scandal shed light on the myth of cancel culture, revealing that Ballinger has since returned to vlogging and continued to amass a large following. In an unrelated incident, Elon Musk’s decision to monetize Twitter’s verification system, resulting in the elimination of the iconic blue check mark on the platform, drew ire from public figures who refused to pay for the previously complementary verification emblem.

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