It began with a message about a tax form. It led to an email from a student to his mother. And it quickly evolved into a unique online viral sensation.
Meet Max Wiseltier. The New York University sophomore is currently known across campus and around the world (wide web). His claim to fame: accidentally hitting “reply all.”
The NYU Bursar’s Office recently emailed students inquiring whether they wanted to receive an electronic version of a relevant tax form instead of a paper copy. Wiseltier subsequently tried to forward the message to his mother, along with a simple question, “do you want me to do this?”
However, it did not turn out to be a simple click-and-send.
“I have a pretty old computer, and when I went to hit the send button it froze a little bit,” Wiseltier told ABC News. “So I was kind of clicking around and must have hit the wrong button.”
The button Wiseltier accidentally hit was for “reply all,” meaning the email meant for his mom was “inadvertently sent to every single student at NYU on the list — all 39,979 of them.” He quickly sent a second email to everyone apologizing for the faux pas. But by then, it was too late. The e-floodgates at one of the country’s leading private schools had been opened.
As the online student news outlet NYU Local explained, “His accidental email and hasty apology triggered a rare, university-wide revelation: We simultaneously realized that any message, complaint, whim, link, video or GIF could be sent to nearly 40,000 people in an instant. We had been given a great and terrible power. For a moment we contemplated responsibility, then gleefully tossed it aside in favor of posting pictures of cats. The ensuing hours were referred to as ‘The Reply-Allpocalypse,’ ‘The Day NYU Broke,’ and ‘Will Everyone Please Just Shut Up.’”
Along with numerous messages complaining about the ongoing email pile-up, students sent scores of sillier emails to their peers. Among them: “Does anyone have a pencil I could borrow?”; “Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses, or one horse-sized duck?”; “Is Professor Rosenblatt still having office hours at 10:45? I’m struggling with this paper. haha.” and “I’ve never felt more a part of the NYU community. Does anybody want to be my friend?”
A few students used the reply-all function to air voices of protest, including one who listed some of NYU’s perceived failings: “Exorbitant tuition. Lazy email list maintenance. Port-Authority-quality restrooms. Union busting. Real estate speculation. What other things is NYU doing all wrong?”
Meanwhile, on a personal level, Wiseltier’s innocent email wrongdoing has transformed him into an overnight celebrity — triggering national media attention and tons of follower and friend requests on Facebook and Twitter.
“It started this chain reaction and created sort of a frenzy as it gained awareness and snowballed more,” he said. “It’s been overwhelming but wild and it is what it is, so I’m just enjoying it all.”
After late-night host Jimmy Kimmel interviewed him via Skype about “Reply-Allpocalypse,” Wiseltier sent a tweet with a telling hashtag: #bestmistakeever.
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