We are past the age where the word “viral” only refers to a sickness (although Emily’s Norovirus seems pretty menacing). YouTube has taken the word “viral” to whole new levels. In this perspective , “viral” refers to the sheer millions of views that a YouTube video can garner. There are so many YouTube viral videos (insert link of top 50 list)! A funny/quirky video on YouTube now has the possibility of bringing someone fame, fortune and recognition at the same time. Psy’s Gangam Style may not have been as popular or none of us might have heard Rebecca Black’s singing in Friday.
I think this YouTube virality is both exciting and frightening at the same time. Anyone can view a video but the popularity can be short lived. Every week, it seems like there is always another video that is more popular than last week’s video. A few weeks ago it was the Harlem Shake. This week, I’ve been hearing about a Mila Kunis BBC interview.
But as a writer, I really have to ask, can writing become viral? With the increasing use of online videos, can a piece of writing ever reach the level of virality of YouTube videos? I think technology has definitely helped increase the access and availability of “writing” for everyone. The fact that I’m writing in an online blog and you’re reading this on a computer is a testament to this fact. But, in this day and age, will we actually hear of a fantastic article or blog post that someone wrote in Korea or in Florida?
We are far off from the virality that writing like Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence probably generated in the late 1700s. The only recent example of writing virality that I can think of is J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter or even the recent Fifty Shades of Grey. But these are actually full blown books and someone may argue that this type of virality is related to the stories. But, the internet is such a great tool. Anyone could read an article from TIME or post from Andrew Sullivan. But, can these ever be viral? I think technology definitely could make writing viral. Personally, I don’t think we have seen any true “viral” online pieces yet. Maybe the subjectivity of writing doesn’t have the same appeal as the “universality” of a video. Maybe, people just don’t like to read anymore…. Or, maybe writers are not “entertaining” enough… Maybe, people are not willing to spare the few minutes it takes to read something versus the seconds to view a video. These are all things to consider.
Why hasn’t a piece of writing been viral at this point? Or has it? Sound off in the comments below. I want to hear your opinion!