Where do you go to find interesting, strange or fascinating information on the Internet?
Do you regularly consult Wikipedia? What kinds of things are you looking for? Have you ever researched intriguing, funny or strange facts or anecdotes? For example, are you interested in discovering a political party dedicated to opposing the use of PowerPoint? Or discover the most unwanted song in the world? Or maybe find pictures of a chicken – yes, just crossing the road?
If you like curiosities and oddities like these, you might like @depthsofwikipedia, an Instagram account that compiles some of the most bizarre pages in the participatory encyclopedia. In “Want to see Wikipedia’s weirdest? Look no further,” writes Anna P. Kambhampaty:
Did you know that there is a political party in Switzerland that opposes the use of PowerPoint? That some people think that Avril Lavigne died in 2003 and was replaced by a lookalike? Or that there is a stone in a museum in Taiwan that looks suspiciously like a slice of meat?
Probably not, unless you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of people following. @depthsofwikipedia. The Instagram account shares bizarre and surprising snippets from the vast crowdsourced online encyclopedia, including amusing images (a chicken literally crossing a road) and minor story moments (Mitt Romney drives several hours with his dog on top of his car). Some messages are healthy, such as Hatsuyumethe Japanese word for the first dream of the year – while others are not safe for work (eg panda porn).
Annie Rauwerda, 22, started the account at the start of the pandemic, when others were baking sourdough bread and learning to knit. “Everyone was starting projects, and that was my project,” she said.
At the time, she was a sophomore at the University of Michigan. Students are often discouraged from using Wikipedia as a source for their academic work because most of its pages can be edited by anyone and may contain inaccurate information. But for Ms. Rauwerda, the site was always more about entertainment: spending hours clicking on one link after another, getting lost in rabbit holes.
“Wikipedia is the best thing on the internet,” Ms. Rauwerda said in a phone interview. “That’s what the Internet was supposed to be. He has this hacker philosophy of working together and doing something.
At first, only his friends followed the account. But it sparked a wave of attention when Ms Rauwerda posted about influencer Caroline Calloway, who was upset that the Publish featured an old version of his Wikipedia page that said his occupation was “nothing.” Ms Rauwerda apologized and Ms Calloway later boosted the account on her Instagram.
Ms Rauwerda has since extended @depthsofwikipedia to Twitter and TikTok. She sells merchandise (like a coffee mug adorned with an image of the Wikipedia entry for “bisexual lighting”) and hosted a live show in Manhattan, featuring trivia and stand-up comedy.
Her subscribers often feature her Wikipedia pages, but these days it’s hard to find an entry that will impress Ms Rauwerda. “If it’s a fun fact that’s been on Reddit’s front page, I’m definitely not going to repost it,” she said. “For example, there are only 25 airships in the world. I’ve known this for a long time, and it made the rounds on Twitter a few days ago. I was shocked. I was like, ‘Everybody knows that.’
She’s difficult in large part because many of her subscribers rely on @depthsofwikipedia to unearth the internet’s hidden gems.
Students, read the whole articlethen tell us:
What is your favorite place on the Internet to find interesting, strange or fascinating information? Describe the site and why you enjoy visiting it. What is the most memorable thing you saw, learned or discovered there?
What is your reaction to @depthsofwikipedia? Did you already know the Instagram account? Does reading the article make you want to visit it now? Which of Wikipedia’s “hidden gems” discussed in the article caught your attention the most?
Annie Rauwerda, 22, says Wikipedia is “the best thing on the internet”. Do you agree? How often do you visit Wikipedia? What types of topics are you looking for? Have you ever spent hours on the site clicking on one link after another and “getting lost in rabbit holes” like Ms. Rauwerda does?
Ms Rauwerda says she hopes visitors to her page will leave with new shared knowledge: “I want you to see something that makes you pause and say, ‘Hmm, that’s interesting.’ Something that makes you rethink the world a bit. What’s the coolest thing you’ve found on Wikipedia? Have you ever come across something on the internet that made you say “Hmm, that’s interesting” or made you made the world rethink a bit?
The article says @depthsofwikipedia subscribers often submit Wikipedia pages, but these days it’s hard to find an entry that will impress Ms Rauwerda. Which Wikipedia page would you feature?
Ms. Rauwerda created @depthsofwikipedia in her second year at university. If you could create or organize your own website or social media account, what would it be and why?
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Students aged 13 and over in the US and Britain, and 16 and over elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by Learning Network staff, but remember that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.