As of Monday morning, the most retweeted tweet of all time is still a group selfie Bradley Cooper took at the Oscars, tweeted by Ellen DeGeneres in 2014. It has 3.3 million retweets. But 16-year-old Carter Wilkerson is about to smash that record, all for the sake of a seemingly impossible quest to get free chicken nuggets from a brand.
Five days ago, Wilkerson tweeted at Wendy’s, the fast food chain, asking how many retweets he needed for a year of free chicken nuggets. Wendy’s replied with “18 million,” and Wilkerson replied, “Consider it done.” Then, he took an image of the whole thing and posted a desperate, chicken nugget-fueled plea for retweets.
“HELP ME PLEASE,” he wrote. “A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS.” As of this writing Monday afternoon, Wilkerson already has 2.2 million retweets. He is far from 18 million, but he’s just 1 million away from making that caps-lock cry for help the most shared words on Twitter of all time.
HELP ME PLEASE. A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS pic.twitter.com/4SrfHmEMo3
— Carter Wilkerson (@carterjwm) April 6, 2017
By Friday, Wilkerson’s tweet was a viral phenomenon, and he started getting media interview requests. The Reno, Nev., teen called a Reno Gazette-Journal reporter during his lunch break from school to talk about his new viral fame.
“I’m one of those people who isn’t usually looking for attention. But since it started, it’s been pretty cool. In school, it’s fun because everyone knows about it,” he said. The wild confidence of his tweets to Wendy’s, he explained, was driven by the fact that he thought his friends at school would think it was funny.
Wilkerson’s dad, J Wilkerson, joined Twitter last week to see what the heck was going on with his son, he told the paper. And it sounds like he’s trying to direct his son to find a way to use all this momentum for a cause (other than, of course, the cause of getting Carter a year’s supply of chicken nuggets).
“My wife and I think it’s great if it has a great cause other than eating chicken nuggets for a year,” J Wilkerson told the Gazette-Journal. “It would be great to solve a life crisis. But also it’s nice to have some whimsical news.”
After that interview, Carter Wilkerson set up a website that indicates that he’s going to try to make some of his dad’s suggestions happen.
The site seems like it’s still under construction, but notes that he plans to start selling T-shirts and donate the proceeds to help “families of breast cancer patients.” He chose that cause in honor of his mom, who was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer when he was 9 years old. Wilkerson wrote that he remembered many of their family members and friends helping them out immediately after her diagnosis, “making meals for us when we were busy with our chaotic life.” His mom’s treatment was successful.
The website also contains a, frankly, incredible description of Wilkerson’s relationship to chicken nuggets:
Ever since I was a young lad, I’ve always wanted to be great. All my friends wanted to grow up to be astronauts, firefighters, policemen or doctors. Me, Ive always aspired to be a chicken nugget. When I got older, I realized that this dream of mine was not physically possible. I was deeply saddened until I thought of a solution. People say “You are what you eat,” so I ate chicken nuggets. I was running low so I reached out to my favorite nugget supplier, Wendy’s, in hope they would fulfill my dreams. And here we are today.
This is the part of the story where I am supposed to tell you whether this viral tweet is Good or Bad. But this one stumps me. On the one hand, The Intersect has a pretty consistent policy of greeting any viral stories involving brands with a world-weary glare. Wendy’s is getting an enormous amount of publicity out of this and isn’t giving a ton to the teen making it happen in exchange. Wilkerson is doing all the work, nuggets aren’t exactly the most expensive food item in all the land, the deal only lasts for a year, and even though it’s almost certain that he will conquer the Twitter retweet record, Wilkerson’s going to have a tougher time reaching the 18 million that he needs for those nuggets.
On the other hand, it’s not as if the DeGeneres selfie belongs in a museum, and Wilkerson seems like he’s trying to make the most of a joke getting way out of hand.
Maybe there’s a way to compromise. Wilkerson’s quest for nuggs, can be Good, for now. But the feeding frenzy of other brands that descended on his viral tweet is mostly not:
— Google (@Google) April 8, 2017
— Amazon (@amazon) April 8, 2017
— John Legere (@JohnLegere) April 8, 2017
— United (@united) April 8, 2017
[this post has been updated]