The Youth Lab


What are young people talking about this week? Mostly, cake. This 52INSIGHTS looks at some of our favourite trending conversations young people are having online right now.


What if baked, eggy batter is all that’s binding us together? Would the realisation that our insides consist not of muscle, blood and capillaries but of a light victoria sponge layered with cream and raspberry jam, be the news that pushes us over the edge, or help us feel human again? This is the discourse in 2020. Cut into everything and you’ll find cake.” Douglas Greenwood. i-D

On June 8th a video of hyper realistic, phenomenally intricate, cakes being sliced went viral. Why? Because they are, quite frankly, INSANE and are forcing people to question their very understanding of reality. The video, entitled ‘These Are All Cakes’ and now at over 31.2 million views, shows cakes that look remarkably like real Crocs, toilet paper, plants, bananas and hand lotion being sliced open to reveal spongy sweet insides.

“Viral cake videos sit at the perfect nexus of “satisfying” and “gotcha” content. Watching a sharp knife slice cleanly through what appears to be an everyday object is surprising and somehow deeply gratifying… The hyper-realistic cake craze is now part of the pantheon of illogical internet food jokes.” Taylor Lorenz, NY Times

Naturally, this has resulted in a mass existential crisis - a collective questioning of reality manifesting in cake video sharing. Is everything cake? This expression of uncertainty is rooted in absurd humor and the surreal nature of the times we’re living through. We’re not even sure what star sign we are anymore. How are we to know what is real in 2020? We’re actually living in a world where the person sitting beside you could be a cake” tweets @kanyinsola111.

Parody cake content has also started circulating. This is where people attempt to slice various household items to see if they are cake or not. Here’s an example - ‘making sure things aren’t cake’. Some other great cake response content includes:

  • This space cake meme
  • This glass of water / cake?
  • Cake the movie TikTok
  • This political news reporter getting involved - someone slice into the Government and make sure it isn't cake”
  • This response to a cake that looks exactly like a roast


This week Will Smith became ‘the new crying Jordan meme’ of 2020. Or, in other words, the face of how the internet is feeling in 2020. It comes following a clip that’s reported as having broken Facebook's record for the most viewed Facebook Watch series with over 15 million views in 24 hours. Screenshots of Smith’s face during the heartfelt ‘Red Table’ conversation with his wife, Jada, as she spoke about a relationship she had with August Alsina, sparked a flood of memes like 2020 and ‘Just call him smith because he lost the will’. His face seemed to sum up perfectly how people were feeling in general about how 2020 has gone so far - not so great.

The joke was fuelled further by Jada Pinkett Smith’s unique choice of the word ‘entanglement’ to skirt around describing the nature of her past relations with Alsina. The internet has done its work and created a remix of ‘entanglement’ for your viewing pleasure. People have now started ‘seeking entanglements’ online and using ‘entanglement’ to describe the relationship between various things from political situations to schoolwork and procrastination. We have a feeling this joke is going to last for a while...


Over lockdown, pop icon Britney Spears’ Instagram garnered fresh attention for her IG and TikTok dancing videos. People were quick to question her wellbeing, as some of the videos came across…a little odd? While some laugh at the meme-worthy content, diehard fans believe that it contains secret messages asking for help. Now, fans have officially brought the #FreeBritney movement into the mainstream (the trend first came into existence in 2019). The initiative is loudly raising concerns about her legal status - she has been under a conservatorship since 2008 after battling mental illness.

“A 38 year old Britney Spears shouldn’t be under a 12 year long abusive conservatorship put on her for mistakes she made in her mid 20s resulting in a loss of rights, income, and custody of her children... #freebritney @bryannspears

Here’s a link to one of the many social media posts that have been created in order to explain what people believe is happening and spread awareness of her situation.

While many question how much truth is in it (if she was being held hostage would she be allowed to post everything she does if she was?) and note that #FreeBritney claims feel like conspiracy theories (in themselves becoming increasingly popular), it has ended up on a lot of timelines because the story is so well sculpted. Either way, it’s amazing how all these small fandoms have given the story legs. Genuine action is being taken in an effort to help her - more than 134,000 people have signed a petition to free Britney from her guardianship and to allow her to be the sole decision maker about her life and finances.


  • Due to the anxiety-driving nature of 2020 events, absurdity is serving a real purpose in young people’s lives right now. Taking a joke as far as possible and creating memes on memes is helping young people articulate shared emotions and their take on what’s happening around them. How could you get involved in this kind of expression or experiment with weirder creative concepts?
  • Conspiracy concerns aside, #FreeBritney reminds us of how niche communities can rally to impact and influence mainstream conversation. With this comes the reminder too, of how help-seeking can manifest in subtle ways online. Young people are extremely literate when it comes to analysing digital content from peers or platforms of interest - well practised at analysing the intent and emotional states behind visual and written posts. Online detective work is a fun pastime for many. Don’t underestimate how easily they can pick up subtle cues.
  • Are you sure you’re not cake though?

See also


This 52INSIGHTS rounds up some the latest in youth conversations and culture in the context of Covid-19 response and digital behaviours.


“Millennials will attack you if you disrespect their Harry Potter house.”