Getting Your Viral On
Driving down Woodward towards New Center you pass under an overhead bridge. It is grey and crumbling but the center holds clear with bright white words: viral, viral, viral, viral, viral.
You swoop right under these words and they stick with you for a moment, graffiti of the mind.
I have a love / hate relationship with the word and the action of going “viral” online. It sounds like a disease - the spreading. It is something any writer should want today: millions of readers reading and sharing as their work goes viral. Yet it can be manipulated, obnoxious, the cat memes and lists, the best of our days.
It reminds me of group think, or becoming one of a crowd online sharing your voice away. “The future belongs to the crowds,” author Don DeLillo says. These crowds are everywhere - and it is unruly violence that breaks them, that truly gathers the attention of today’s crowds in DeLillo’s narratives. Maybe, in today’s world too.
Crowds are the tweets online. The Facebook newsfeed you read everyday. The dozens of websites we must go to. It’s predictable and yet we are all guilty of falling in: 10 new restaurants opening near you, 25 things that happen when you live together, the funniest joke you’ve ever, ever heard. This baby and dog dance together for one whole minute. The plea of reason from a murderer who kills innocent college women in California, on YouTube. 3.2 million views.
As a writer and storyteller I love the ease of sharing stories online. I love feeling I can truly connect to readers all around the world. I love how we can inspire those readers to share stories, to promote what they want to hear with their own voices. We have the freedom to read and to write and to publish online. I am absolutely grateful for this.
But viral content bothers me when the message has caught on and left behind meaning along its trail. When readers share just to share, and when there is not much of a story or topic there. It’s when meaning is left lying at the bottom a cold and empty hospital bed, recycled and worn.
Maybe it’s the hyper connectivity that gets me most. We’re all those young kids we once were, looking around at everyone else in the room, comparing what everyone else is doing while alone, yearning for real emotional connections in our empty homes on our flat screens.
We share the lists and memes of the day.
What becomes real and what becomes recycled?