Each week, CNN’s Jarrett Bellini identifies one topic that trended on Twitter and attempts to learn a little more about what it is and why we cared. Trends burst in and out of social media so rapidly that we wanted to give proper attention to at least one that seized our collective interest over the last seven days. This week we’re digging into...
‘Nathan Ryan Fanatic’
At 9:02 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 15, “Nathan Ryan Fanatic” was trending on Twitter -- which immediately raises the question: “Who the heck is Nathan Ryan?”
Undeterred and slightly motivated, by late Monday afternoon I had Nathan Ryan -– the man himself -- on the phone to boldly answer my tough questions: “I don’t know how to put this politely, but … who the heck are you?”
(Note: This also works when meeting foreign heads of state.)
In a sentence, Nathan Ryan is an Internet music-parody sensation with a loyal fan base of mostly screaming teenage girls who have seemingly unlimited access to Twitter.
But don’t hate. He’s seems like a nice kid, and it wasn’t always the good life for Nathan. In fact, two years ago, before his re-makes became so popular, he was living in his parents’ basement in Colorado Springs, aspiring to be a film and TV actor -- which was working out about as well as can be expected for someone living in his parents’ basement in Colorado Springs, aspiring to be a film and TV actor.
Fame eluding him, he gave college a try -- a move which was ultimately half-hearted and short-lived. Nathan quit halfway through his freshman year to focus on the Internet, thinking that maybe somebody would finally discover him online. He explained to his mom, “I’m just going to drop out and make YouTube videos.”
This, as you can imagine, ranks rather low on the list of things parents want to hear from their children -- just slightly above “Snooki and I are having a baby.”
Read more: Social Dissection: 'Follow Me On Instagram'
But Nathan’s mom was supportive, making him promise that if it didn’t pan out in a year he’d go back to school. He promised. He also started working as a cashier at Whole Foods. But that didn’t last very long.
Today, at just 23-years-old, Nathan earns about as much money as his parents, and he no longer lives in their basement. This is what happens when millions of people have watched your videos and YouTube starts sending you big fat checks while you goof off with your friends.
For ordinary working stiffs, the life of a YouTube star is a rather difficult success story to digest: He sleeps-in until three in the afternoon. You get a 30-minute lunch break. He’s taking his original music on a nationwide concert tour. You’re signed up for a mandatory workplace harassment seminar. He has countless girls shaking and screaming during the prime of his life. You have Diane in accounting.
(Fun fact: Diane loves cats!)
This past Sunday night when "Nathan Ryan Fanatic" was trending on Twitter, it had been a little over a week since he challenged his supporters (collectively known as the Ninja Gang) to prove themselves as his biggest fans. Those he deemed extra-worthy would receive a special care package filled with t-shirts, stickers, posters, and other good stuff. These would be his “fanatics,” and Sunday was the night he planned to announce the winners.
That’s when Nathan Ryan won Twitter.
“Everybody just went crazy,” he explains. “I wouldn’t say I’m on Justin Bieber’s level, but I haven’t been doing this that long.”
To that point, Nathan says people have described him as the Hot Topic or scene version of Justin Bieber. He’s covered in tattoos, his jeans are skinny, and his original music consists of rapping over dub step and house beats.
For our readers whose heads didn’t just explode, now would be a good time to consult The Google.
After all, it’s lunch. You have half an hour.