Bait-and-switch memes have existed since the dawn of the internet, but in 2020, we’ve seen a surprising explosion in this style of online prank. But unlike in previous years, when getting Rickrolled or losing The Game was seen as a major annoyance, this year’s iterations like Monki Flip and Ronaldinho’s Soccer 64 Opening are no longer an aggravating troll, they are actually welcomed with open arms. How did that happen?
The bait-and-switch internet trend stems from the late 1990s, with one of the most iconic early examples being the infamous Goatse shock image. The concept revolved around tricking unsuspecting victims into clicking a link, usually claiming it would lead to something enticing or otherwise relevant to their interests, but would actually lead to a disturbing or obnoxious webpage. In the case of Goatse, they would end up looking into the depths of a man’s soul through the window of his widely stretched anus.
Starting in 2003, Kikia introduced the era of the Internet Screamers – a packaged “two-in-one” bait-and-switch of sorts. The calm, long-shot videos hypnotize the viewer and tricked them into turning up the volume and studying the details – right before a spooky scary face jumps out of nowhere to tests the control they have over the bladder.
Bait-and-switching really blossomed in the mid-2000s, when 4chan came up with the Duckroll. Following the same formula as Goatse but less NSFW and more silly, clicking an inconspicuous-looking would open an image of four-wheeled duck captioned “DUCKROLL,” with “The Picard Song” playing over it. While the initial reaction might have been confusion, the prank really set in when a person got rolled again and again over the course of weeks or months, with their disgruntled comments delivering plentiful keks for the baiter and for those who managed to avoid the trap.
Why does anime food look so good and aesthetically pleasing… pic.twitter.com/OBe38jumtK
— serpy •.• (@chefmaeda) May 1, 2020
In the footsteps of You Have Been Gnomed, the new meme relied on editing the switch into a video rather than linking it. The fact that the green screen template, uploaded at the very start of the trend, gained a whopping 580,000 views is indicative of this major shift in the bait-and-switch meta. While the older “click a link” method continues to live on, primarily with shock content such as Wood Sitting on a Bed, the “two-in-one” bait-and-switch package began to dominate.
One of the major reasons for this shift was the rise of all kinds of hornyposting, especially on Instagram. Large meme pages, especially those reposting other people’s content, never shied away from promoting highly sexual content, often posting provocative clips to advertise their pages. So others, especially the pages specializing in ironic memes, exploited this by tricking viewers into clicking on a sexually provocative piece of content and getting jebaited into a bait-and-switch instead. A prime example of this could be seen with #BreastCancerFree Baits, which quickly became the bane of the horny Instagram crowd.
In August 2020, bait-and-switches have reached new heights, proliferating on every platform from Instagram and Reddit to Twitter and iFunny, with the threat getting stick bugged, monki flipped or mesmerized by Henry Stickmin’s Distraction Dance being at an all-time high during any given day on social media.