Article by: Julie Kang

Two weeks ago, 16-year-old Alex Labeouf was just an ordinary teenager.

He woke up at 7 for school, loved to play soccer, got into trouble for not taking out the trash and worked at a local Target store.

Then on Sunday, November 2, everything changed for him in just a matter of two weeks, as the teen from Frisco became the internet’s newest trending sensation. Alex’s photograph became the new big online meme that had and has been rapidly circulating social media.

A teenage girl from Britain stated that she randomly came across a Tumblr photo of Alex that was surreptitiously taken a week earlier. She thought Alex was cute and posted the picture on her Twitter account, @auscalum, with the caption “YOOOOOOOOOOO.” Within minutes, the image exploded on the Internet and #alexfromtarget was born.

Since then, Alex has been called to Los Angeles to appear on “Ellen”, approached by news outlets around the world and offered advertising deals and sponsorships. On top of that, numerous television, movie and modeling agencies have also shown interest in working with him.

Now, Alex now has about 730,000 followers on Twitter, five times larger than the population of Frisco, and his instagram has 2.3 million people, three times larger than his twitter following. And according to Google Trends, the term “Alex from Target” has been searched on Google more than “Nash Grier” or “Justin Bieber” since this adventure began.

But how exactly did Alex become the new star? Was this trend started due to teenagers’ boredom? Or is it that he is exceptionally handsome?

Some think that he became popular because of his baby-looking face, but Alex Bernas, a current Senior claims, “Enough with Alex from Target. There is nothing about him that makes him any more special than any other cashier at Target or any other retail supermarket. He is just a normal person, that is it. I get that the kid is attractive to most teenage girls. But other than that there is nothing to make a huge deal over. The endless memes are ridiculous and unneeded. Most of them aren’t even funny. Alex from Target is a nobody, plain and simple. If a girl hadn’t photographed him, he would still be an anonymous teenage boy. But because this generation is so superficial, a “hot” guy is made famous in a single day because of one photo and a bunch of obsessive fangirls.”

In fact, while it is difficult, from a distance, to not look at an inexplicably viral phenomenon like “Alex”, Joseph Hadaway thinks that “it is the teen fandom base that actually plays the huge role and has enormous power over what goes viral. In fact, nowadays, fandoms have truly become legendary that they have control and power to exert over Twitter’s trending topics, a list of hashtags that should represent the most popular subjects worldwide.”

All this goes to show that media is perhaps the most powerful force shaping mainstream Internet culture. Justin Bieber, One Direction, and Alex From Target have all gained their influence and popularity through social media. Social media have controlled what is and was popular, and so long as this continues, it will also have the upper hand in the culture of technology and more importantly the world.