From #10YearChallenge to rare 'ring of fire' eclipse: What fired the Internet in 2019

A lot can happen in a year. So, just how well do you remember 2019?

With just days to go before welcoming 2020 - and a new decade, gasp! - The Straits Times looks back on the stories and videos that got readers talking online.

Some were downright bizarre, while others were funny, inspiring and heart-warming. There were also the ones that were hotly discussed for days, and even inspired their own memes.

Here are 10 stories, videos and posts that fired the Internet in 2019. What will the new year bring?

1. #10YearChallenge

The viral #10YearChallenge took the world by storm in January, with people sharing a current photo of themselves and one from 2009.

In Singapore, social media users, politicians and celebrities were quick to join in the buzz with their creative posts on Facebook and Instagram.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, too, posted two photos of himself with the hashtag. He even included a bonus hashtag: #MerdekaGeneration.

"My hair is greyer and thinner, but I'm still enjoying what I do," he wrote.

2. Blood dripping from ceiling leads to waterproofing debate

In one of the year's strangest incidents here, a Tampines resident made a grisly discovery after noticing a strange smell in her flat on Jan 29.

The resident, who gave her name as Ms Jamilah, traced the smell to a dark red liquid dripping from the ceiling in her master bedroom.

Ms Jamilah traced the smell to a dark red liquid dripping from the ceiling in her master bedroom. PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

Suspecting the liquid was blood, she asked her son-in-law to call the police. Police later found a 77-year-old man dead in the unit above hers. He had died of a heart attack.

Some netizens were puzzled as to how blood traversed the floors and wondered if it was due to structural issues or a lack of waterproofing. Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng later said the blood had seeped through the ceiling due to the porous nature of concrete.

3. 'Is it because I'm Chinese?' and 'It's auto-lock!'

These phrases are bound to be familiar to most Singaporeans. Yes, it is from that video of a heated exchange between a Gojek driver and his unhappy passenger that went viral.

The seven-minute clip, which was posted on Facebook in February, shows the female passenger accusing the driver of holding her hostage in his car.

She had also been upset that he could not avoid the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantry during her morning peak hour journey.

The clip was viewed hundreds of thousands of times, with certain catchphrases further immortalised in a slew of memes and jokes.

Companies and local organisations also joined in tickling netizens with cheeky social media posts using the phrases.

4. That attack on a security guard in a carpark

Briton Stuart Boyd Mills could not find an unlocked exit at the carpark at Roxy Square shopping centre.

And when security supervisor Andrew Lim offered to show him the way out, an inebriated Mills tried to trip Mr Lim with his foot, stumbled himself instead, and in a fit of anger threw a punch at Mr Lim's face.

This caused the security supervisor to fall backwards onto the floor and break his spectacles. He also had a sprained neck and swollen eye.

Remote video URL

Mr Mills' actions, which were captured on video by Mr Lim's colleague, drew ire from social media users over several days after it was posted online.

Hundreds left comments on ST's Facebook posts calling for the police to take action. It also sparked discussions on the legal protection for security officers.

Mr Mills was eventually given a week's jail in September.

5. The second incident in a carpark - in a $1.5 million condo this time

It was not a good year for security officers.

In another case of abuse, a video of a man shouting and hurling vulgarities at his Whampoa condominium's security guard went viral over the Deepavali weekend in October.

The man, who identified himself as Ramesh, was outraged after being told that he needed to pay parking fees for his guest to park inside the condo.

The video of the man shouting and hurling vulgarities at his Whampoa condominium's security guard went viral over the Deepavali weekend in October. PHOTOS: SCREENGRABS FROM YOUTUBE

"I buy your ****ing property for $1.5 million. This is $1.5 million you know?", Mr Ramesh yelled, while the officer replies: "We are just enforcing the rules here."

Netizens condemned Mr Ramesh's actions, and an online petition even called for his employer JP Morgan to fire him.

The outcry cast the spotlight on issues such as class, race and nationality - a stark reminder of how delicate these fault lines in Singapore can be.

The two subsequently made up in a private meeting.

6. This jungle house is beyond be-leaf

A keen gardener in Pasir Ris took her hobby a little too far, with her overgrown garden of more than 40 pots crammed along the corridor drawing some unwanted attention this year.

Neighbours gave the unit the nickname "jungle house", and some described the difficulties of walking through the corridor just to get home.

After photos and videos were shared online, netizens and residents gave differing views of what should be done.

Some understand that the gardener was averse to killing the plants due to her religious beliefs, while others said the pots were an obstruction and could pose a danger during emergencies.

One Facebook user quipped: "I've sent Deliveroo orders to that house before and I thought I was in field camp."

Remote video URL

Stories about unusual items in corridors have consistently intrigued netizens over the years.

Koi fish tank in Tampines, and mannequin on HDB ledge in Clementi, anyone?

7. Singapore's caregiver extraordinaire

Over the past decade, 83-year-old Lee Cho Poon has opened his one-room rental flat to three men.

Two had been strangers he befriended while busking, and one a neighbour, but Mr Lee considered them to be his brothers.

He fed them, clothed them and bathed them, caring for them with the little savings he had of his own. And when two of them died, he arranged their funerals and oversaw the rites.

SPH Brightcove Video
Over the past decade, Mr Lee Cho Poon has opened his home to three men. He is not related to any of them, but each time he took in a person, he would feed and care for him voluntarily.

Mr Lee's story touched the hearts of many readers, who admired his selflessness, generosity and compassion.

Over several days, more than 30 people wrote in to ST offering Mr Lee donations and assistance.

Mr Lee politely declined all the offers, asking instead that donors help those less fortunate than he is.

8. The Legend of Imran

After a photo of a soldier wearing a serious expression while receiving a rifle with his muscular arms from his platoon commander went viral, netizens were quick to coin Singapore's own meme: The Legend of Imran.

Specialist Cadet (SCT) Muhammad Imran Azeman shot to Internet fame, after his photo was posted on the official Basic Military Training Centre Facebook page in July.

SPH Brightcove Video
Full-time national serviceman Muhammad Imran Azeman, 23, shot to fame on the Internet after a photo of him receiving a rifle from his platoon commander went viral.

The image took on a life of its own, with many netizens contributing humorous one-liners on the Facebook post expressing just how tough Imran is.

SCT Imran was asked to read these one-liners out loud when he sat down with ST for a video interview in September. The video was a hit with many readers, garnering over 4,500 shares and nearly 1,000 comments.

His favourite line? "During stand by bed, Imran lies down while the bed stands by him."

9. Midges mania in August, black bugs in October

In August, midges that plagued residents before returned with a vengeance in the area around Pandan Reservoir for about a month due to a breeding surge during hot weather.

Though the small, flying insects do not bite or spread diseases, some residents were alarmed by the swarms, described as "a scene from a horror movie". The last time they appeared was in 2016 near Bedok Reservoir.

Bukit Batok residents, too, saw the return of black beetle-like bugs in October that first "attacked" in 2015.

The insects - identified as Ataenius australasiae - invaded beds, dining tables and even clung to human skin, causing itching.

Residents said it had been a lot worse in 2015, as there were many more of these pests bugging them for some three weeks.

10. Boxing Day's 'ring of fire'

Thousands across the island turned their gaze to the skies on Boxing Day to catch the annular solar eclipse, which was visible for the first time in two decades.

Starting around 11.30am, the eclipse peaked at 1.23pm to form a rare "ring of fire" that wowed the crowds and momentarily cast a shadow over the island.

SPH Brightcove Video
Thousands gathered across the island to witness the annular solar eclipse, dubbed the “greatest astronomical event in Singapore”. It will next appear in 2063.

ST's live stream of the eclipse from Marina Barrage attracted 1.6 million views. The best photos of the eclipse shared on social media and tagged #sgeclipse were also featured in ST's interactive special.

On Facebook, many users left comments reflecting on their year, and shared some of their wishes and hopes for 2020.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.