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The marriage proposal that went viral

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It used to be that marriage proposals were an intensely private affair. In Victorian times, couples -- who generally weren't allowed to be alone together without chaperones -- often sealed the deal through surveillant-snubbing letters. In the 20th century, even as romance became considerably less Victorian, the proposal itself (helped along by, among others, Hollywood, Hallmark, and De Beers) generally retained the idea of intimacy-by-way-of-privacy: Most people thought of "will you marry me?" as a question best kept, at first, between the two people who would decide its answer.

Now, though, that question's a meme. 

Today, on the craziest day of the year, Buzzfeed super-user Len Kendall has proposed to his girlfriend Katie using the digital descendants of the ring and the rose: a Buzzfeed post, a Twitter hashtag, another Twitter hashtag, a collection of Facebook comments, and memes.

Oh! Such memes

Kendall's post gets the full (but modified) Buzzfeed treatment:

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And, true to its headline, the post is not just a proposal, but a plea to the denizens of the Internet: "Help me convince Katie to say 'yes'!" Kendall has helpfully included, in his buzzposal, a cutout image of himself, the better to allow his collaborators to Photoshop and thus viral-ize his bended knee.

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And: The community responded to Kendall, rather awesomely, with this:

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And with this:

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And, actually, with all this:

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They have also shared their support for Kendall and his proposal on Buzzfeed, leading to perhaps the most uniformly friendly and supportive comments thread in the history of the Internet:

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Aw. 

Kendall, it's worth noting, is by no means the first person to experiment with the new approaches to question-popping that the Internet has created. (He's not even the first person to propose via memes.) But his proposal is notable beyond its webtastic publicness; it's noteworthy, as well, for the collaboration it assumes on the part of Kendall himself and on the part of the (largely anonymous) community he's enlisting as he asks the big question. Help me do this, guys. In that, it's a nice reminder of the Internet's ability -- and, in fact, of the Internet's tendency -- to make even the things that used to be intensely private, suddenly, intensely public. And cooperative. And communal. Getting married has always been a social affair; from that perspective, a proposal that goes viral, intentionally, seems entirely fitting.

As does a proposal that is, in its way, physical. Proposals have always been, in one important sense, like pretty much every other aspect of our analog lives: lovely, and gone in an instant. Kendall's viral version has not only ingenuity (and, most likely, surprise) going for it; it also offers an archive of itself, combining a moment and a memory into one gloriously Photoshopped image of Angelina's leg. Which is pretty great. 

And Katie, apparently, agrees. She said yes

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All images: Buzzfeed, Buzzfeed readers, Len Kendall, and the Internet.

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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