The hunt for an “identical wrist freckle” among women on social media went viral in May 2019 following a widely-shared tweet:
ladies….. u got a freckle on the middle of ur wrist or is this a myth lmao pic.twitter.com/VpwkkeWKTj
— aaryn ✰ (@aarynwhitley) May 22, 2019
In it, the original poster included four images of a purportedly identical wrist freckle on four different people, and wrote:
ladies….. u got a freckle on the middle of ur wrist or is this a myth lmao
The claim was primed to become virally popular — readers were likelier to respond if they located any sort of freckle on their wrist, and those who did not were less likely to engage. Consequently, engagement on that tweet would suggest (perhaps indirectly) that a majority of women indeed were marked by a wrist freckle.
That pool was broadened further because the original poster didn’t specific a specific wrist — right, left, or center, any wrist freckle seemed to fit the post’s criteria. But you did not have to scroll through many replies before it became clear that “middle” and “wrist” were also being applied liberally:
— adelaaa.🌸 (@adela_babyari) May 26, 2019
— LTP (@lenatheplug) May 26, 2019
— NICOL CONCILIO (@nicolconcilio) May 25, 2019
— Diana Saldana (@DianaChantel) May 25, 2019
Okay wtf?! Now I’m tripping out pic.twitter.com/tlDmcI3JvT
— BeautyyBird (@beautyybird) May 26, 2019
Men responded too. One tweet illustrated the malleability of the claim:
Yooo wtf us guys too. pic.twitter.com/m3YRlCIJpW
— Derrick (@derrick_foraker) May 27, 2019
A more accurate characterization of the question might be “ladies (or men), do you have a freckle (or other feature) on your (wrist, forearm, or hand?)” due to the wide variety of affirmative responses. Nevertheless, media outlets leapt upon the “wrist freckle challenge,” despite its also really not being a challenge of any reasonable description.
BuzzFeed published a piece about the wrist freckle rumor, as did PopBuzz, Fox News, Allure, TIME, Fox affiliate WJW, Health.com, and The Epoch Times (among many, many others.) Titles for these reports appeared to affirm that a newly-discovered identical wrist freckle was present for most of the population, such as “Not To Alarm You, But You Probably Have A Freckle In The Middle Of Your Wrist” and “Everyone has the same freckle on their wrist and the internet is freaking out” and “Twitter users stunned to discover oddly similar wrist freckle: ‘I’m scared.'”
Rarely, outlets contacted dermatologists to ask why wrist freckles might be common. Doctors didn’t stretch too far to surmise that sun exposure was a purported culprit, but the issue of whether wrist freckles were identical or common were not addressed.
It seems extremely likely that confirmation bias and its logical fallacy sibling cherry picking played a large role in the popularity of the rumor. Respondents were likelier to engage with the tweet if they were able to find a freckle on either wrist or forearm, creating an impression that the mark was perhaps more common than it was. We found no information to suggest that the claims represented a genuinely common feature in women or men, and without similar questions about other common freckling patterns, it is difficult to say if the rumor has any merit.