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“Nugget Guy” bests Ellen’s record for most viral tweet, pleases Wendy’s, gets nuggets

Viral Twitter victory proves America can still unite for an (un)healthy cause — or a silly internet distraction.

Wendy’s /Twitter
Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

There’s a new world record for the most retweeted post in the history of Twitter — and it’s about chicken nuggets.

Perhaps you thought Ellen DeGeneres’s fabled 2014 Oscar night selfie, which featured a celebrity-studded ensemble and racked up 3.4 million retweets, could never be surpassed. After all, it was reportedly worth $1 billion, and we all know numbers don’t lie.

But the unthinkable has happened, and our previously naive worldview has been shattered by a more cynical reality that suggests the one thing Americans love more than celebrities is fast food.

Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to introduce you to the figure now widely known as “Nugget Guy.”

Last month, a teenager from Reno, Nevada, Carter Wilkerson, tweeted at Wendy’s with the following inquiry:

“Consider it done,” Wilkerson replied, and he promptly went to work crafting the world’s most viral tweet:

Crude, but effective.

Since then, Wilkerson — frequently referred to as the Nugget Guy — has become a viral celebrity, with a “verified” checkmark for his Twitter account, a rivalry with The Ellen Show, and a constant courtship by brands of all stripes trying to get a piece of Wendy’s free-publicity pie.

Ellen’s tongue-in-cheek embrace of Wilkerson’s quest took the game to a whole new level. Before Ellen (B.E.), Wilkerson was just a guy wanting free food. But After Ellen (A.E.), there was a race, and a record.

And we all know records were meant to be broken.

Then, it happened: On May 9, the Guinness Book of World Records certified Wilkerson’s tweet as the most viral tweet of all time — and distributed an official press release to mark the occasion:

Guinness World Records, the global authority on record-breaking achievement, can confirm that 16 year old Carter Wilkinson, of Reno, Nevada, has shattered the Guinness World Records title for Most retweeted message on Twitter. Surpassing the previous record held by Ellen DeGeneres, Carter’s tweet has racked up 3,435,067 retweets as of May 9 at 10:37 AM ET

Wilkerson’s victory was hailed by many as a victory for all mankind, while the New York Times summed up an existential rumination on the nature of internet virality with, “Anyway, the Nugget Kid will be getting his free chicken nuggets.”

Unsurprisingly, as word of Wilkerson’s triumph spread on Twitter, the news was also met with plenty of skepticism — and rightfully so:

It’s true that 3.4 million tweets — that number appears to be holding steady in the wake of Nugget Guy’s victory — is a far cry from the staggering 18 million benchmark Wendy’s initially set; but given all the free publicity the company has received, it seems all too happy to have gone back on its word:

The jubilance over Wilkerson’s record-setting achievement has highlighted a fundamental truth about American culture: While Ellen’s selfie may have once caught the public’s attention, Wilkerson’s quest for free food clearly caught its soul.

Thus, on this day, America learned that it can still unify around a worthy common cause dumb internet distraction. Enjoy those nuggs, Carter. For you have taught us that #nuggsforcarter are truly #nuggsforall.

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