Do you regularly visit Wikipedia? What kinds of things do you look up? Do you ever search for intriguing, funny or strange facts or trivia? For example, are you interested in discovering a political party dedicated to opposing the use of PowerPoint? Or learning about the world’s most unwanted song? Or maybe finding photos of a chicken — yes, simply crossing the road?
If you love curiosities and oddities like these, you might love @depthsofwikipedia, an Instagram account that compiles some of the crowdsourced encyclopedia’s most bizarre pages. In “Want to See the Weirdest of Wikipedia? Look No Further,” Anna P. Kambhampaty writes:
Did you know that there’s a Swiss political party dedicated to opposing the use of PowerPoint? That some people believe Avril Lavigne died in 2003 and was replaced by a look-alike? Or that there’s a stone in a museum in Taiwan that uncannily resembles a slab of meat?
Probably not — unless, that is, you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of people who follow @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 moments in history (Mitt Romney driving several hours with his dog atop his car). Some posts are wholesome — such as Hatsuyume, the Japanese word for one’s first dream of the year — while others are not safe for work (say, panda pornography).
Annie Rauwerda, 22, started the account in the early days of the pandemic, when others were baking sourdough bread and learning how to knit. “Everyone was starting projects, and this 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 in 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. “It’s what the internet was supposed to be. It has this hacker ethos of working together and making something.”
At first, only her friends were following the account. But it received a wave of attention when Ms. Rauwerda posted about the influencer Caroline Calloway, who was upset that the post featured an old version of her Wikipedia page that said her occupation was “nothing.” Ms. Rauwerda apologized, and Ms. Calloway later boosted the account on her Instagram.
Ms. Rauwerda has since expanded @depthsofwikipedia to Twitter and TikTok. She sells merchandise (such as a coffee mug emblazoned with an image from the Wikipedia entry for “bisexual lighting”) and has hosted a live show in Manhattan, featuring trivia and stand-up.
Her followers often pitch her Wikipedia pages to feature, 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 the Reddit home page, I’m definitely not going to repost it,” she said. “For example, there are only 25 blimps in the world. I’ve known about that for a long time, and it went around Twitter a couple days ago. I was shocked. I was like, ‘Everyone knows this.’”
She is choosy in large part because many of her followers rely on @depthsofwikipedia for unearthing the hidden gems of the internet.
students, read the entire articlethen tell us:
What’s your go-to place on the internet to find cool, strange or fascinating information? Describe the site and why you love to visit it. What’s the most memorable thing you have seen, learned or discovered there?
What’s your reaction to @depthsofwikipedia? Did you already know about the Instagram account? Does reading the article make you want to visit it now? Which of the “hidden gems” from Wikipedia discussed in the article grabbed your most attention?
Annie Rauwerda, 22, says that Wikipedia is “the best thing on the internet.” Do you agree? How often do you visit Wikipedia? What kinds of topics do you search for? Do you ever spend hours on the site clicking on one link after another and “getting lost in rabbit holes,” like Ms. Rauwerda does?
Ms. Rauwerda says that she hopes that visitors to her page walk away with new shared knowledge: “I want you to see something that makes you pause and go, ‘Hmm, that’s interesting.’ Something that makes you rethink the world a little bit.” What’s the coolest thing you have found on Wikipedia? Have you ever discovered something on the internet that made you go, “Hmm, that’s interesting” or made you rethink the world a little bit?
The article says that followers of @depthsofwikipedia often pitch Wikipedia pages to feature, but these days it’s hard to find an entry that will impress Ms. Rauwerda. Which Wikipedia page would you pitch?
Ms. Rauwerda created @depthsofwikipedia as a sophomore in college. If you could create or curate your own website or social media account, what would it be and why?
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Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.