Alex from Target (or #alexfromtarget) is a teenage boy with waterfall bangs who works at a Target in Frisco, Texas. He became a viral sensation on Sunday night after thousands of teens tweeted a photo of him literally working at Target.
Alex from Target rocketed to fame, trending on Twitter worldwide on Sunday night. And because the internet is a place where we (or, at least, #teens) cannot have nice things, he was immediately involved in controversy. First people were mad that he got famous for being beautiful. Then, a brand took credit for his fame, but he denied it.
And now we are here, in a place where a 16-year-old who bags groceries at Target has become a national source of confusion. Here's everything you need to know about Alex from Target.
Who is Alex from Target, really?
Am i famous now?— DGM_Alex (@acl163) November 2, 2014
Alex from Target's real name is Alex Christopher LaBeouf. He's 16, he lives in Frisco, and he really does work at Target. His Twitter handle is @acl163, and he has over 600,000 followers at the time of this writing.
So many followers— DGM_Alex (@acl163) November 3, 2014
How did Alex from Target get famous?
There are two stories about how Alex from Target became a viral internet sensation. For now, let's start with the story as Americans experienced it in real-time on Monday. We'll get to the other one later.
Where viral internet sensations start is always a mystery, because it is so difficult to know who first posted a photo. Right now, the story is that two 15-year olds named Alanna Page and Brooklyn Reiff who visited the Target where Alex works tweeted a photo last week of a cute bag boy at Target.
On Sunday night, twitter user @auscalum retweeted the photo. She did not take the photo herself. Instead, she found it on the internet and was simply spreading the love for cute boys, as teens are wont to do. (@auscalum's tweets are now protected.)
@auscalum's retweet went viral. Her tweet, and its caption "YOOOOOOOOOOO," received hundreds of retweets and replies. This may be explained by the knowledge that @auscalum is a 5 Seconds of Summer (#5sos) fangirl — 5sos is a teen boy band that is very good at Twitter and is often trending worldwide. Thus, she already had a pretty decent follower count for a teen.
By Sunday night a user on Twitter had identified the real Alex, and he gained 300,000 followers, because teens cannot be stopped. He was featured on CNN. He was flown out to be on Ellen DeGeneres's show. Here's a video of him talking about how he learned about his new-found fame:
Even Target hopped onto the story by tweeting its support for Alex:
But how did he get famous so quickly?
Never underestimate the power of teen girl fandom. Teens may not be taken very seriously, but they do have the power to sway hearts and minds. As Caitlin Dewey wrote at The Washington Post:
This sort of thing plays out within the teen fandom space more or less every week. These fandoms have enormous power over what goes viral. But because they're usually trending things like One Direction's latest video, or some new heartthrob's name, the mainstream Internet tends not to take them seriously.
She's right. Teens, particularly teen girls, decide more than we give them credit for. Teenagers are important to brands and companies because they tend to be early adopters and they have the ability to swing trends.
"Teenagers have now become the gatekeepers to modern trends. With the internet and social media, teenagers have more access to that information than ever before," Oliver Pangborn, senior youth insights consultant at the market research firm The Futures Company, told Inc. Popular teens, be they on Instagram or Vine or Twitter, often have more followers and favorites than actresses who appear in Hollywood movies.
Teens have more disposable income, time, and energy than many adults, and they often use those resources for the benefit of cute boys. Twitter trending topics almost always includes at least one reference to a boy band, be it 5sos or One Direction. Mobilize the teen girl fandom, and you mobilize the world.
The girls, really, are the ones lost in this story. Two 15-year-old girls took this picture that made Alex from Target's fame, but they've received no attention. @auscalum, who made his image go viral, has only been chastised for taking credit for the photo. The girls made Alex from Target famous, and they can make him un-famous again.
Sadly, the world likes to take credit away from teen girls, which is exactly what happened when a marketing company claimed credit for the viral photo.
Did a brand create Alex from Target?
After two days of sweet pure fame, Alex from Target's place in the world became a huge question mark on Tuesday night when viral marking company Breakr Nation claimed credit for his popularity.
"We wanted to see how powerful the fangirl demographic was by taking a unknown good-looking kid and Target employee from Texas to overnight viral internet sensation," Dil-Domine Jacobe Leonares, founder and CEO of Breakr Nation, wrote on LinkedIn.
There is, however, no proof besides Leonares's own words that Breakr Nation was behind the popularity of #AlexfromTarget
Alex denied it:
Apparently there is a company trying to take credit for how the pic taken of me went viral.— DGM_Alex (@acl163) November 5, 2014
My family and I have never heard of this company.— DGM_Alex (@acl163) November 5, 2014
I didn't know the pic was taken or tweeted until my store manager showed me.— DGM_Alex (@acl163) November 5, 2014
It seems very unlikely that Breakr Nation is behind Alex from Target's fame. The company only has 1,000 followers on its main Twitter account, and everyone and everyone known to be involved in Alex's rise has denied any link to the company. As Rae Votta wrote for Femsplain:
Breakr relied on the idea that a company making claim in something that was hard to prove gave them legitimacy that the teen girls did not have. Who could really prove who controlled those pictures? Breakr can post on LinkedIn and talk to CNET. Teenage girls are just tweeting to their friends, right? It took a considerable amount of digging, and the collective mind of smart twitter users, but finding the actual origin of the photos was not impossible. Breakr just assumed no one would care, and the headline "AlexFromTarget is a hoax" is an attractive one.
Who else is a casualty of Alex's instant fame?
Everyone is a casualty of something in high school. The two main casualties in this story of one young man's rise to completely unnecessary fame for simply existing in the world are young women.
@auscalum, who tweeted the first picture, has had many haters yell at her because they know that she was not the person who took the photo of Alex. She admits this, but haters gonna hate.
The second casualty of Alex from Target's fame is Lindsey Diers. She's Alex from Target's girlfriend and she seems pretty great. She's on the volleyball team and has lots of angry tweets about her rival high school. Of course, the teens of Twitter who love Alex from Target are sending death threats to her.
@lindseydiers_ I will find you, and I will kill you.— synne (@sidesbabe) November 3, 2014
Ok people are going way too far with this— Lindsey (@lindseydiers_) November 3, 2014
Teen love is hard in the Twitter age, but misfortune only extends so far, as both girls seem pretty pleased with their own influx of followers. Lindsey now has 27,300 followers.
People have to have conspiracy theories for this right?
Do they ever! Here are a couple:
- Ellen DeGeneres, who hosted Alex from Target on her show on Tuesday, has been accused by Business Insider of scheming to bring Alex from Target to fame saying, "Alex's silence until he went on The Ellen DeGeneres Show suggests a carefully planned, exclusive agreement between the two." The only real backing for this theory is that Ellen faked her impromptu selfie at last year's Oscars and is therefore now capable of anything.
- This is all a big Target marketing ploy. This seems like the only conspiracy with any heft. Target has had a down year in sales, and this is definitely giving the store some good publicity. "The most successful viral content is often when the brand takes the backseat on the campaign," Mashable's Christine Erickson wrote. "In fact, some brands don't reveal they were a part of the process at all."
What would Socrates think of all this?
Well, truth isn't always an objective matter. Your truth and my truth might be entirely different things, just as Alex's truth and Breakr Nation's truth are obviously two different things. As the great philosopher Socrates once said, "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."
So there it stands. Alex from Target is now a teen with half a million Twitter followers and a spot on Ellen. We, the people of the internet, know absolutely nothing.
Or in other words, lol nothing matters.