A couple months ago, I typed up a little thing and posted it on Facebook. It was just a funny little play on recent headlines, meant to point out some of the more obvious hypocrisies in the social-political issues of the day. I put about five minutes into it, and didn’t think much of it.
Imagine my surprise when my Facebook status received over 30,000 likes and shares in a matter of hours. (As a point of reference, I doubt anything I’d posted previously had gotten more than 100 likes. I’m just this guy, you know?) Shortly thereafter, Facebook removed my status update for not meeting community standards.
My assumption is that it was the result of a formula: X Likes + Y Shares / Z Complaints = Post Removed. Sure, I can see why some people might not like it, but it was a long way from offensive. But, whatever.
Wait. Not whatever. I was pretty happy to see my message, no matter how flawed, reach so many people so quickly. I decided that I wanted to get it back out there. I found a cool website (www.cmx.io) that generated comics in the style of XKCD (www.xkcd.com). With just a few minor edits, I turned my status into a comic, uploaded it to imgur (www.imgur.com), and put it back out there.
That’s when things got really crazy. Over the next couple days, that comic racked up a quarter million shares and likes. It bled over to Twitter and Pinterest. It was picked up by Lizz Winstead, who has over 100,000 followers herself. It was viewed 750,000 times on imgur. Daily Kos shared it with MILLIONS of viewers. It was (very badly) ripped off to make a new meme featuring some guy from Duck Dimwits. I had to remove Facebook and Twitter from my phone, as I couldn’t use it due to the constant notifications. In short, it went viral.
Well, that was something, wasn’t it? The response was overwhelmingly positive, but that’s to be expected as I was mostly preaching to the choir. The negative responses were far more interesting.
One of the first messages I received after posting was some weird, rambling screed comparing me to the Nazis. It really made no sense at all, but certainly helped prove Godwin’s Law.
Next came a handful of generic whiners: stupid liberal, that’s not true, you don’t like it when conservatives make generalizations, blah, blah, blah.
Most surprising, though, was the number of people who went to great lengths to disagree with me. I received messages from dozens of people who wanted to explain to me, in great detail, why I was being silly. The practical upshot was that no reasonable person would think this way. Conservatives aren’t terrified of Muslims, they’re terrified of radicals of any creed. I was being unfair by making these sweeping generalizations, because no thinking person would use this logic.
To those people I say, “DUH.”
That was the whole freakin’ point. No reasonable person would think that way; I was making fun of unreasonable people. If you are not the type of person who uses this sort of logic, I wasn’t making fun of you.
Everything I referenced in this little wordplay came from real, actual statements by public figures. UNREASONABLE public figures. UNTHINKING public figures. These are the people that drive us liberals crazy. These are the people that should drive reasonable conservatives crazy, too, because they make you look bad, much like Nancy Pelosi makes us liberals look bad. We’re not so different, you and I.
The whole experience was fascinating to me. For one thing, (I’m not gonna lie here) it was pretty good for my ego. It was interesting to see it spread, and it reinforced the speed and power of the internet. It demonstrated that viral can’t be forced. If I had known what would happen, I probably would have tried to monetize it somehow. (Actually, if I had know what would happen, I probably would have edited it a million times and screwed up the whole thing.) I wished I had something to promote or share while I had the internet’s attention.
In the end, it was just a thing that happened. I’m proud of it. It’s unlikely I changed a single person’s mind, but maybe, just maybe, I did.