Feeling Slightly Viral from my Going Viral on the Internet

As a writer and a blogger, as I elaborated on in this blog, I write to be read and seen. That’s why we bloggers do what we do.

In terms of audience and readership then, a blogger hits the jackpot when something we have written goes viral– it’s kind of like our Holy Grail.  If you don’t know what this kind of viral means, like my 88 year old father, going viral is not about illness or fever; it is about going widespread out-of-control on the Internet. We, of course, as writers, want our very best work to be shared by millions – that profound piece, that touching piece, that really clever piece that shows your true talent.

So although a few of my pieces have gone mildly viral, I never experienced something going insanely viral, going all around the world and back again – making news everywhere. Blogging at the Huffington Post site (thank you to this publication by the way) there is always that potential with its enormous readership.

I wrote a little light and fluffy piece about a photo that I found to be very funny. It involves a family I know well, consisting of four daughters and a recent engagement. I think, and obviously from the attention it received, the world agreed with me that the photo spoke volumes of sentiment, and had lots of good humor, In case you missed it, here’s the link.

If you look through my regular blog archives and my archives on the Huffington Post, you will see much more substantial writing work. Yet this little one just exploded, due to the humor in the photo.

It should have been a rush, and it was in the beginning. What a heady feeling it was at first when it was put on the main page of the Huffington Post and then it was linked on other pages and all of Huffington Post media. The sheer quantity of readers was staggering and kept rising.

The heady feeling was short lived as I became a little bit feverish at the comment trolls making uncalled for vicious comments about these lovely girls who were the subject of the blog; about their weight, and everything else nasty and hurtful. These women didn’t ask for this kind of negative attention, and I felt so guilty for putting them under such cruel scrutiny.

Note: Many people also berated me as the writer for using the word hilarious in something they didn’t find that funny. My favorite comment was from a snooty professor type who wrote the dictionary definition of hilarious since I obviously didn’t know what the word meant. (Humorous is included in the definition by the way.) I wrote back it was clear,with shares and likes over six figures; that she was the one who didn’t know humor. She didn’t comment back.

As it picked up steam, the piece was picked up by major news outlets as it started spiraling in popularity. It became a Twitter phenomenon and a meme, and a pleasant result was that I got more Twitter followers. The piece linked to my regular blog and my metrics on readership for that went through the roof.  More readers = cool.

And then I got that sickly feeling back because everyone seemed to want a piece of my viral pie. I found other publications lifting the story using another writer’s byline (author name), copying it, embellishing on it, and some even wrote untrue details.

It’s an uncomfortable feeling to have your work stolen from you, or plagiarized. Some writers of various publications were kind in contacting me first and linking my original story, and mentioning my name. Others, including the major newspaper I used to write for, took the story without researching it and published an untrue version. (I called for a correction, and got one several days later after it went to print and after it had been on their Internet site for a while.)

Not that I am territorial — oh wait, yes I am.

The story and photo went around the world as Google informed me – to Sweden, Denmark, England, etc. I enjoyed reading my name with the story in various languages. Here is the piece rewritten by a Swedish writer, but they do credit me, and make sure you hit translate if you go to the link. The translation is awkward-language delightful.

Yet the version published in England brought more cruel comments from people living across the pond. I found out that it’s not just ugly Americans who are comment trolls; it is an international phenomenon. Lots of people were angry that they wasted time reading it. Yes, they were FORCED to read it.

The girls who were the subject of this piece didn’t mind the accompanying nastiness as much as I ached for them. They have solid self-esteem, and they did, after all, get their 15 minutes of fame.

I didn’t exactly have my 15 minutes, yet my name went around the world, and my work was read by millions. Not my best work by a long shot, but I will never complain about too much attention.

So yeah, been there, done that for the whole viral thing. It wasn’t as great as it is cracked up to be, but I am still appreciative, and so over it.  Except,not really. We all know that I will continue laboring on with the blogs, hoping for the next big hit.

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