On January 18 2020, Twitter users shared the following video that purportedly showed a screenshot of United States President Donald Trump’s recent tweets — which taken together, formed the lyrics to “Break My Stride,” a 1983 pop song:
This. Is. Fucking. Insane. pic.twitter.com/sbfgP89lV9
— Tania Singh (@TwinklingTania) January 18, 2020
Twitter users in the thread speculated about whether the tweets were real, a coincidence, evidence we live in a simulation, or something else.
Those who visited Trump’s Twitter timeline might have noticed that some of the tweets seemed to really be there, such as one in the thumbnail where he referenced Bernie Sanders being “shut out” by Democrats:
….Joe Biden, and Bernie is shut out again. Very unfair, but that’s the way the Democrats play the game. Anyway, it’s a lot of fun to watch!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2020
However, in the “Break My Stride” video’s thumbnail, Trump’s tweet began: “Last night Bernie was shut out again.” In the real tweet, he wrote: “… and Bernie is shut out again.” The basis of the tweet seemed to be the same, with the first few letters edited.
So what was going on? As it turns out, part of the confusion involved a popular meme moving from one platform to another, where readers on the first platform recognize it immediately, but those on the second might not understand the context.
The video was labeled as originating on TikTok via user @dominic.debettencourt:
@dominic.debettencourtJust gonna leave this here #fyp♬ BREAK MY STRIDE – kierlarue
It wasn’t clear precisely exactly when @dominic.debettencourt first shared the clip, but on January 14 2020, SmoothRadio.com covered a popular trend on the platform TikTok involving the song “Break My Stride.” In “The viral ‘Break My Stride’ lyrics TikTok game explained,” the site explained:
Have you received a text from a friend telling you they’ve had the ‘strangest dream’? Don’t be fooled – it’s all part of a new viral trend which is sweeping the internet…
It doesn’t take too long for the internet to find a new trend — and this time it includes Matthew Wilder’s hit song ‘Break My Stride’.
People across the world are texting friends, family and partners the lyrics to Wilder’s tune in this viral trend.
But they’re trying to trick the other person into believing it’s a normal conversation — before they realise it’s actually song lyrics.
The confusion about whether the tweets were real were likely not intentional; instead, it was introduced by the platform move. Most TikTok users were aware the song was sweeping that platform in the form of memes and pranks, but Twitter users not acquainted with TikTok had no such context, making them far likelier to assume the clip was based on an authentic set of Trump’s tweets.
Trump encodes message via song lyrics into his twitter feed – “No one is gonna break my stride… no one is going to slow me down” https://t.co/4KQk17tZyX
— Wendy Jones (@WendyJo83137615) January 18, 2020
Trump encodes message via song lyrics into his twitter feed – “No one is gonna break my stride… no one is going to slow me down” https://t.co/YM5XhoiMBS Go President Trump Run She can't stop the good you are doing 🧐
— D'Lynn Morse (@DLynnMorse1) January 19, 2020
Does anyone have the Break My Stride string of tweets by @realDonaldTrump and @SaraCarterDC and @GOPChairwoman and others? The first words of the tweets are the lyrics of the song in order? I lost it – help! #QAnon #BreakMyStride
— Nancy (@cayennabanana) January 18, 2020
Although the video of Trump supposedly encoding “Break My Stride” lyrics into his tweets was amusing, it was not organic or planned. The video was created by TikTok user @dominic.debettencourt as part of an ongoing memetic interest in “Break My Stride” among the platform’s userbase.