Russia's Facebook is now balanced, as all things should be

The picture shared on social media. It shows Thanos' infinity gauntlet in emoji form making a snap gesture. Beneath it, is dust. Image copyright VKontakte
Image caption The image was captioned: "You have fallen victim to Thanos' snap"

Spoiler alert: This article does not contain any spoilers for Avengers: Endgame - however it does contain plot details for Avengers: Infinity War.

"The hardest choices require the strongest wills."

These words, spoken by antagonist Thanos in the film Avengers: Infinity War, may have been ringing in the ears of people on VKontakte - Russia's equivalent to Facebook - who signed up to a particular plug-in in anticipation of the film's sequel, Avengers: Endgame.

By putting their names forward, users agreed to take part in a virtual 'snap', with exactly 50% of people losing access to their VKontakte account.

This mimics the end of Avengers: Infinity War, where half of all life in the universe is wiped out by Thanos snapping his fingers.

But unlike the film, those who were lost were treated to the above picture for 15 minutes before their access was reinstated - and those who survived were shown a statistics card, similar to this one:

Translation: "397,795 have crumbled into dust. You and another 397,793 remain alive."

What did it cost? Everything.

The purge became a trending topic in Russia when the virtual Thanos "snapped his fingers" at midday on Wednesday.

Russian social media users were divided between those celebrating their survival and others mourning their poor luck - with one person unlucky enough to have two separate VKontakte accounts fall to the snap.

Others quoted moments from the films, naming the characters purged on-screen whose company they would be joining.

And Avengers fans who can't read the Cyrillic alphabet might be able to figure out who is being quoted here:

For those that can't figure it out, it's a direct quote from Spider-Man: "Mister Stark, I-I don't feel so good".

This day extracts a heavy toll

The purge of VKontakte has drawn comparisons to another similar act which spread on Reddit in 2018.

Members of the r/thanosdidnothingwrong (warning: if you're trying to avoid spoilers, don't click) subreddit voted to honour the Marvel villain by banning half its users in a single 'snap'.

Reddit engineers then got involved to support the random ban, though it was still organised by the site's regular users.

So, rather than being an event in straight promotion of a film, this was entirely planned by Redditors themselves. However, Josh Brolin, who plays Thanos, ended up getting involved.

But while the Reddit movement was widely-supported as a tribute, this act from VKontakte has seen criticism from some users.

"There's one thing I don't understand," said a critic. "You have a page with important contacts and conversation history... and you are risking it for a challenge?"

Of course, the users got their accounts back after fifteen minutes. But this did not stop some taking to the world of art to joke about their lack of instant gratification.

The top panel names a person whose account was frozen for 15 minutes. The lower panel reads: "Freaking Thanos, I just sent Sasha a funny meme! I will get you back for Sasha and for the meme!"