Filed under “high contrast photos of fruit floating threateningly in the dark”

Friday the 13th is arguably the most cursed day of the year. We don’t even always have them, yet they sneak up on us like a clown in a sewer grate. It’s the evil twin to the Leap Day. The sinister sister of Halloween. But witches are cool now, and magic is real, so we set out to investigate the most complex of the social media dark arts: the cursed image.

hello, it’s me

There has already been some extremely scholarly research around the cursed image, what they are, and where they came from. So here’s the TL;DR of many hours of cursed reading:

They started on every former-middle-school-goth’s favorite platform: Tumblr. They made a swift jump to every former-middle-school-goth’s second-favorite platform (Twitter, of course) and grew @cursedimages to over 100,000 followers. r/CursedImages is a subreddit closing in on 1 million subscribers, and has become a main hub for cursed content since @cursedimages stopped posting in 2017. Where have they gone? Were they cursed? Only the cursed images know. 

If you’re asking yourself what a cursed image is… you know it as soon as you see it. It’s unsettling. You feel uneasy. The lighting is weird and blown out, or too dark to fully grasp what’s going on. You’ve never seen something like that before, nor will you ever again. 

deep-seated cursed image

A cursed image becomes a cursed image when someone finds an out-of-this-world snapshot on a now-defunct Flickr page from 2004, or when you post something weird on Reddit and someone comments “cursed image.” A cursed image becomes a cursed image when someone labels it as cursed. Putting parameters on a cursed image feels like a fool’s errand; there aren’t any specific criteria that makes an image cursed, but you feel the cursed vibe in your bones. 

a dream/nightmare

A cursed image is (usually) created by accident and discovered by accident. Forcing a cursed image is a cursed act in itself, and while many brands have creeped us out and pushed the boundaries of what a brand should be able to post on their Instagram, none have quite mastered the art of the cursed image. Dark Stock Photos give the cursed image a run for its money, because only cursed people would do something like this on purpose. Created intentionally, but discovered accidentally, strange stock photos carry the distressing vibe of a cursed image with the added veil of contrived corporate-ness (or at least as corporate as its certainly cursed art director). 

So what do cursed images want from us, exactly? All a cursed image wants is to be seen, and shared, and to curse as many eyeballs as it might come across. A cursed image wants its moment on the front page of Reddit to then disappear into the internet ether. A cursed image wants to burn itself into your brain, imprinting its vaguely ominous energy until you’re forced to search “toilet full of frogs” at 3am because you can’t stop thinking about it. A cursed image is waking up first at a sleepover or finding yourself next to a complete stranger on a rollercoaster or sitting on a warm toilet seat. It’s uncomfortable, but you kind of like it? It’s a fleeting moment when you’ve become cursed, and the cursed image has done its job. 

sorry about this one

Today, we celebrate the cursed image and the strange chaotic energy it brings to the internet. May we revel in its weirdness and bask in its bizarreness. Happy Friday the 13th.



Not a VSCO Girl, Not Yet a Woman: Why Today’s Teen Girls Give Me Hope


Yeah, like this week’s newsletter wasn’t going to be about Apple