Where I finally understand this whole viral thing

Truth time. A little secret from me to you: I really didn’t understand what “going viral” meant until maybe last year.

This guy looks viral.

Using my brain and what we call “contextual clues,” I finally figured it out but for whatever reason the term didn’t click for me for some time, even though it makes logical sense.

In the regular world, though, the word ‘viral’ does not bring forth positive images. Anytime someone talks about a virus or infection or contagiousness, we want no part of it. But in social media, it’s the best thing that can ever happen to you. So basically, digital wet sneezes are a good thing.

(Ugh. I just grossed myself out typing ‘wet sneezes.’ Don’t get me started on sneezes.)

In our era of instant gratification, news and information is now spreading so fast that something even taking a few days to become popular is slow. Which is craziness! Technology has basically turned hearing about something “through the grapevine” into a competitive frenzy, where news travels at the speed of…..well, internet connectivity.

It’s gotten to the point where, when someone finds something out two or three days after most people have chewed it up and spit it out all over email forwards/Facebook/Twitter/StumbleUpon/Reddit/YouTube/Google+/Tumblr/Pinterest/Foursquare/LinkedIn  or what have you, there is always a person who will reply, “Dude, you’re just now hearing this? Where have you been living? Old news, bro.”

Remember America’s Funniest Home Videos? I think that show is still in existence….Anyway, prior to YouTube it was the only way silly home accidents which were poorly shot could ever go viral, and even then, they didn’t guarantee that people would see them, because that would mean people would have to choose to tune in to watch Bob Saget host the show. It would have been funnier if he could have been himself instead of the cleaned up version of himself.

Off the top of my head, I can name several examples of things that went viral and of course, it’s not even the tip of the iceberg. Feel free to add your own examples in a comment! The ones I thought of are:

Friday by Rebecca Black. Talk about a train wreck of a song and music video. I heard about it on Tumblr and then Twitter. I had to see for myself. The sequel is even worse because it’s not catchy in the slightest. (Should there have been a sequel? No.)

If you’re like my friend Scott and you still haven’t subjected yourself to this nightmare but want to give in, here’s your chance:

And if you want to see the best version someone could ever possibly perform of that song, it’s when Stephen Colbert sings with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots. Go here for that piece of television magic.

Three words: Evolution of Dance. I don’t even remember how I heard about this – an email forward, maybe? But it still holds up. This video was a big deal because he got a million hits on it and that was before a million was no big thing.

This next one is by the infamous Alexandra Wallace who made a racist rant about Asians in the library at UCLA. The backlash was incredibly funny. She had no idea that her ignorant decision to make fun of a singular group of people would end up forcing her out of her own school. An ABC After School Special could have told her that.

And here’s the response to her rant (my personal favorite) by the talented Jimmy Wong. Warning: his song will get stuck in your head! But in a good way.

And last but not least, we have The Bed Intruder Song. A couple of guys took Auto Tune and made an interview with a “regular Joe” from the projects into a national sensation. Ke$ha should give them a call since they clearly know how better to use Auto Tune than she. This thing blew up and a full version was released on iTunes. I may or may not have purchased the ring tone.

So basically, you either have to be incredibly talented or incredibly dumb to have something go viral. I’m happy to say that out of the examples I mentioned, only one was due to stupidity. Alexandra, I hope you’re in a better place, honey.

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  1. There is a SEQUEL to “Friday”? Good God. Thankfully I have never seen it. But unfortunately, I have been subjected to the original Rebeca Black video. (But I agree, the Steve Colbert version is just epic.) Also – Jimmy Wong is my new hero.

    Here’s something adorable:

    And something just…dumb (good luck if you can make it through the entire thing without throwing your computer through the window!)

  2. saintclarence27 says:

    I do love the Colbert/Roots version of Friday – much to my dismay. The second Felicity Theme Song could also go viral…

  3. Of all the things crap I admittedly subject myself to, thankfully, “Friday” still has not been one of them.

    If I knew how to embed video, I’d embed the video of a rather large black girl singing in her apartment. She decides it’s a smart idea to get on top of a coffee table and forgets she has limited room to move. She flips the table, falls off of it and lays on the ground groaning for some time before the video ends. It went SO “viral” it was even on a commercial for either Android or Sprint or one of the major media moguls.

  4. Ashley Becker says:

    I enjoyed reading this piece and watching all of the videos. Sadly, I had never seen any of these except for the reply to “Asians in the library,” when it was featured on Jimmy Fallon’s late night show. 🙂 But, I am not on Twitter or Tumblr.

  5. I am not too proud to admit that I actually bought the mp3 for the Bed Intruder Song…it helps me feel better when I´m feeling homesick…weird I know. Maybe I should be embarrassed of this actually…

  6. BadASSAunt says:

    Awesome post Zoe! LOOOOOVVVVEEED the Colbert-Kimmel Friday routine. Made my day – which is officially starting at 5 pm EST!

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