Iamamiwhoami: The Viral Campaign That Just Made People Sick

Mysterious videos never really turned into anything, in Bigger Than the Sound.

Back in December, the Gulf of Mexico had yet to be sullied by roughly 50 kajillion gallons of crude oil, people were freaking out about swine flu, and Lady Gaga hadn't even begun feuding with Jerry Seinfeld yet (or released the "Telephone" video, for that matter). It seems like a million years ago, doesn't it?

Anyway, while all that was going on, I had become newly obsessed with Iamamiwhoami, a mysterious, decidedly spooky viral campaign that involved strangely sexualized tree sap, sorta-gross scenes of a woman smeared in mud and definitely gross scenes of a live goat birth. Needless to say, it was pretty much required viewing.

As 2009 turned into 2010, Iamami kept churning out videos, and my obsession only continued to grow. I was spending hours attempting to crack the bizarre numeric codes, neglecting work to continuously refresh Iam's YouTube page and basically foregoing any semblance of a normal life. I was determined, come hell or high water (or my eventual unemployment) to figure out just who was behind this thing. It got so bad that I even wrote an open letter to Iamami, begging him or her to stop for the sake of my own sanity.

Only, they didn't. If anything, Iamami only ramped up his or her efforts, sending me a terrifying package filled with doll hair and wood splinters and a mysterious codex. And then, well, then nothing really happened.

That's not exactly true. We got even more videos, most of which were e-mailed to me by Iamami through a Gmail account. But, for all intents and purposes, the viral campaign that had so engrossed me stopped right there. It's still going on right now, in fact (a brand-new clip was sent to me last week), but really, I can't be bothered anymore. And, judging by the falloff of media coverage about the campaign, not to mention the rather dormant comments section on Iamami's YouTube page, I'm not the only one.

And that's why I brought up December, when this whole thing began. Because while seven months certainly wasn't "a million years ago" in reality, on the Internet, it's practically an eternity. Most people's attention spans don't last seven minutes, let alone seven months, and whomever is behind this thing — for reasons I cannot even begin to comprehend — never grasped this. Or, more probably, they just didn't care.

Which is why, I suppose, will be Iamami's legacy. It is quite possibly the first viral campaign in history that ceased to be viral and just sort of became, well, something. Whether this was due to some gross miscalculation, general lack of foresight or really, really lofty expectations (because, remember, for a while there, people truly believed Christina Aguilera was behind this), Iam will probably best be remembered for being an engrossing, if not totally satisfying trifle, a brief sensation that, ultimately, hung around too long.

And sure, a lot of this is because, from the looks of things, Iamami has something to do with Swedish singer Jonna Lee (that's definitely her in the latest video), and after months of fingering everyone from Xtina to Gaga as the woman behind the scenes, Lee wasn't exactly a rewarding payoff. It's sort of like what will happen if, after months of speculation and round-the-clock coverage, LeBron James just ends up re-signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers — all that hyperventilating, all those miles logged by J.A. Adande, ultimately, were for nothing.

Then again, in true Iamami fashion, we're still not clear if Lee is solely responsible for the campaign, or, really, what this campaign is intended to promote in the first place. And that — more than anything — is probably my biggest problem with the whole thing. The folks responsible spent months teasing us with clues, with numbers and animals and Swedish cakes, with strands of hair and codices. They made us believe every single detail of the videos was somehow paramount to solving the mystery of Iamami — "OK, in this scene, there are seven dogs" — and really, none of it was. It's kind of like the trick the folks behind "Lost" pulled with the finale (to use an aptly dated example). Six seasons spent making even the most trivial of details seem vital, only to pull the rug out from viewers at the end and say that none of it really mattered. And yes, I found it just as unsatisfying as Iamami.

So, seven months in, we're still no closer to knowing anything about the campaign, who's really behind it or, honestly, why we should even care. Still, the Iamami machine keeps chugging along, seemingly without a resolution in sight, off into the horizon of the Internet. Some are still hanging on, but I'm happy I got off at the last stop. It was a good ride while it lasted, though.

Are you still paying attention to Iamamiwhoami? Let us know in the comments!


VMAs 2018