Becoming viral | Inquirer Opinion

Becoming viral

/ 12:18 AM November 04, 2016

Think of a young girl belting her lungs out on a karaoke machine in a mall, hitting the right notes in the right places, much to the delight of an eager crowd. Think of a girl around the same age belting her lungs out in fury at a faceless female guard. Think of a boy hunched over pencil and paper on a dimly lighted and dangerous city road. Think of celebrities without airbrush and heavy lighting, singing along to senseless lyrics with an infectious tune for an unseen audience.

These are just a few examples of content that has gone viral online. We are witnesses to their rise and eventual demise. A number touched and entertained us, if only for a fleeting moment. But a few have made a permanent dent in our popular culture. Regardless of substance or form, they share the same characteristics: They provoked a national reaction, they became subject of conversations over coffee, and they all used social media as a platform.

In this age of easy access to content and its easy proliferation in the psyche, whether one is an individual aiming for celebrity or a business team seeking to drive profits, the biggest question today is: How does one become viral?

Prior to this era of hashtags and trending topics, the word “viral” had negative connotations. Merriam-Webster’s simple definition of it is “caused by a virus,” conjuring thoughts and images of the uncontrollable spread of a disease, like HIV/AIDS in the 1980s or dengue fever in recent times. But Merriam-Webster also defines it as: “spreading very quickly to many people, especially through the internet.” The second definition seems more appropriate and more intriguing. Suddenly, it connotes quick and instant fame, a shot at being recognizable and vaguely influential.


For something to be viral, therefore, it must be able to cause a ripple in the vast ocean of information uploaded and exchanged daily. And what a ripple it must be! According to business management software Domo, in every minute of a day YouTube users share 400 hours of new video, Facebook Messenger users share 216,320 photos, and Twitter users send 9,678 tweets. Some of our contributions to the internet may perhaps elicit a few currents, but there are also those that cause waves. And they’re not just the funny home videos that we watch on cable TV anymore.

Not surprisingly, schools of thought regarding this phenomenon have begun to emerge. Viral marketing, for example, is a technique that makes use of social networking and technology to create brand awareness. Apparently, it is not enough for content to be interesting. It must also be “infectious,” as observed by media critic Doug Rushkoff. A user must be influenced enough to share content with others, thereby “infecting” them, so that they also infect others.

Viral marketing has created the likes of Justin Bieber, who was discovered by a talent manager on YouTube. His YouTube views to date number 11,494,000,000 and counting. It has also catapulted the Kardashians to near-untouchable popularity. Kim Kardashian is followed by 82.98 million users on Instagram and is rumored to earn $200,000 per tweet.

Ours has become a generation subconsciously infected with the hype of viral content. We are no longer mere audiences as in the days of airtime commercials or ads in the yellow pages. We have become content generators ourselves. We have become hopelessly subjugated by hearts and likes; it is almost like masturbation. Data are not the only currency in this new era of marketing. So are the self-affirming reactions of our followers and friends; they are the respondents of our own blatant self-promoting, even if we are not completely aware of doing it.


Viral has become the new end-goal: for the self-gratification of individuals or the leveraging of corporations. Think of the attention, of the affirmation, of the spike in sales. But just like anything else that has come to distract this generation, anything that is viral—regardless of the heat of the moment and the speed of ascent—is also anything that is fleeting.

[email protected]

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

TAGS: internet, social media, Trending, viral

© Copyright 1997-2024 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.