Things got weird this year: a Slender Man sacrifice, Bitcoin pills and infinite genders. What did you miss?
The internet got strange in 2014. Really, really strange. From skin-crawling GIFs to Slender Man and Sony hacks, this was the year that online life blurred the line between fiction and reality. We delved deep into the dark underbelly of the web to dredge up everything weird, wonderful and perverse about our virtual lives.
It's 2014, and social networks have finally wised up to the fact that not everyone likes being boxed into gender categories. Facebook got the ball rolling by introducing more than 70 gender options (including trans and cisgender) to their network, and Google+ went one better by inviting users to enter their own preferred gender identities in their profiles.
Internet memes can occasionally cross over into real life with very, very unexpected results. Slender Man, a popular online spook story, became all too real when two pre-teens attempted to kill a friend as a sacrifice to the bogeyman. Thankfully, there's a happy end to this story: the girl survived and even received an anonymous Purple Heart medal in the post thanking her for her bravery.
Sex-positive emojis. Karl Lagerfeld emojis. Even an app that converts all your text messages into emojis. If there was a vote for pictographic language of the year, emojis would definitely win. But the best emoji news of the year goes to the Unicode Consortium's announcement that multiracial emojis would be rolled out in the newest version of the much-loved symbols. (And hopefully Unicorn Face emojis won't be too far behind.)
One step forward, two steps back. Queens all over the world threw shade at Facebook for suspending their drag accounts under its 'real names only' policy, calling on the social network to be a little more understanding about gender identity. Thankfully, it's since reinstated their accounts and apologised - but not before tonnes of users migrated to Ello, an alternative network.
North Korea made no secret that it wasn't too happy with Sony's new film The Interview, which stars James Franco and Seth Rogen as US spies trying to assassinate Dear Leader. So when hackers leaked five unreleased films from Sony and demanded that it stop the "movie of terrorism", the FBI pointed the finger at the Hermit Kingdom. Whoever's behind it, they succeeded – the film's theatrical release has been cancelled.
While one newspaper claimed to have discovered the true identity of Bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakamoto (spoiler: they were wrong), maybe the biggest sign of Bitcoin's rise from unknown cryptocurrency to Pretty Big Deal was the fact that drug dealers in Europe had started stamping BTC logos into ecstasy pills. Seriously.
Meanwhile in 'skin-crawling viral GIF of the year' news, everyone went crazy for this image of Modern Family star Sofia Vergera wearing Emma Watson's face like a mask. Turns out that the truth is stranger than fiction – and it leads straight to the very Lynchian fetish subculture known as female masking.
Call it a viral success story. Las Vegas background voguer and spotlight hijacker Brendan catapulted to instant internet fame and landed the ultimate coup for any teen in 2014: a modelling contract with American Apparel.
Another internet subculture that emerged this year? 'Lifters', the Tumblr community of thieves who post images of their #fivefingerdiscount hauls. Slammed as the equivalent of The Bling Ring's middle-class teen robbers, the real-life lifters told Dazed that the truth wasn't so simple.
Forget the festival crowd call of 'coke-weed-pills-MD'. Enterprising online drug vendors are finding alternative ways to sell their stash on darknet marketplaces. So how do you attract young, tech-savvy buyers to your product? Easy: tell them it's fair trade and locally sourced.