Late last year, Lilianna Hogan, an 18-year-old from Santa Cruz, California, went on vacation with her family in Rwanda. The family hoped to see some mountain gorillas, so they went to Volcanoes National Park and hired a guide to show them around. While climbing a mountain, Hogan decided to take a Vine of the surroundings. She pulled out her phone, swung it around for a panorama, and at the very end of the six-second clip, caught the guide—a grinning Rwandan man—staring at her adoringly. "Hi!" she said. "Okay," the guide replied.
On December 29th, Hogan posted the Vine:
"His name is Jackson and he is very sweet," Hogan told me via e-mail. "I was trying to video my mother getting mad at her phone then it turned into a landscape but then Jackson was there. Then it went viral LOL."
"Went viral" is an understatement. Hogan's video of Jackson's lovestruck expression exploded on Vine, spawning a whole meme-movement called "okay guy." There are now thousands of tributes to the video on Vine, YouTube, and other social networks. The "#okaymovement" hashtag contains thousands of mash-ups, some set to songs like Kanye West's "Mercy," others just subbing in Jackson's surprised look as a kind of Vine-based reaction gif.
"Okay guy" is the biggest meme on Vine since the "do it for the Vine" days, and its popularity caught Hogan completely by surprise.
"One day one of my friends revined it, then four of her friends revined it and then the next day thousands were revining it," she says. Hogan says she was a bit uncomfortable when her video began to go viral. "At first, it really freaked me out and I did not like it because I felt like everyone was just laughing at Jackson because he's black, and that's what people do on Vine." She defends Jackson, and says didn't feel embarrassed to be stared at: "He was so extremely sweet and it was flattering that someone so sweet was attracted to me."
It's hard to know how, exactly, the Jackson Vine went viral. But it had all the right ingredients: a twist ending, a subject caught by surprise, a look that betrayed a secret crush. Unlike some mega-popular Vines, "Okay Guy" wasn't created by a Vine celebrity with millions of followers. It spread organically, and has gathered 25 million loops so far, in addition to the now-innumerable tributes.
Eventually, even big-name Viners like Austin Miles Geter (1.4 million followers) joined the #okaymovement:
"This video has completely reshaped how I experience Vine," Hogan says. "I get so many notifications and messages and comments." She adds: "I don't really look at the remixes very much. It's also just hard to keep tabs on them."
We wanted to try to find Jackson, and ask him how he feels about becoming an inadvertent Vine celebrity, but Hogan says she doesn't remember which Rwandan tour guide company he worked for. Jackson, if you're out there, get in touch…okay?