The spread of the Karen Virus

Social media has been flooded with “Karens,” a term that has grown in popularity since 2018. However, it has exploded in the last year. This has come to people questioning what the term Karen actually means. Is it a nickname? An insult? Perhaps some amalgamation of the two? Karen is a term that will likely stay as it is a part of pop culture and the way people talk now. So, it is important to understand the meaning and why Karens have gone viral.

To truly understand this viral explosion, one needs to look closely at the term, Karen. 

A Karen is someone who is known to complain and freak out over the slightest of things. A person who complains to the manager of an establishment for no particular reason other than to gain free items, or to will others towards her point of view and opinions . A Karen is someone who refuses to wear a mask in a required area, or yells at others that they should not be wearing a mask. A Karen is someone who believes their children are angels and lets them tear up a place with no repercussions. Karen is all of those things and more.

A Karen can be both male or female, it is just a nickname that identifies someone who falls in one of these categories. There are many terms being shared virally for a male Karen, such as a “Darren.” These terms are used for someone who puts themselves over others and gets agitated to the point of public freakouts, simply because they are trying to will their views and desires onto others. In short, Karen is an adult who wishes to act as a child in the form of public meltdowns. 


What is with society’s fascination with Karens? Maybe it is interesting to watch someone yell, attack someone, and lose their mind for something minor. People can relate to the Karen explosion because they might know someone who has acted in similar ways in public.

In this age of COVID-19, the term Karen has gone rampant, especially on YouTube. Clips of people refusing to wear face coverings have gone viral across platforms like Youtube, Twitter, and Reddit. Some Youtube channels have even made a living off of, “Karen freak out compilations.

Over the summer a woman wanted to show her displeasure over the selling of facemasks  in Target. She proceeded to destroy the store display and claimed to be on a mission, from a conspiracy based group working for the government. Karens displaying public freakouts over being asked to protect others can be found all over many platforms. Clearly, this viral explosion is entertaining to watch, and sad at the same time. It is kind of like watching a car wreck. People may not know why they watch, they just cannot stop. 


The term Karen was created to counter people who nag and whine. It is simply a little nickname for people who feel the need to impose their views and opinions onto others, but in a very public way. Tantrums, meltdowns, screaming, and even physical violence… they all can be found in Karens. While Karen is a relatively new term, it’s clear that it is here to stay. Karen has grown alongside terms like, “Kyle” and “Okay, boomer” with this internet take over. The viral explosion reminds us that as long as there is someone to complain to the manager, there will always be a Karen. 

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