That’s When you Know …

December 4, 2008

by Kerry Gregovich

A huge buzzword being tossed around all the time is “viral.” Whether it’s a video, a blog, a catchphrase—you name it—it’s nothing more than a blip in cyberspace unless it’s coined viral.

But what is the determining factor of how “viral” that something is? How can you call something a trend? Is it dependent on the number of page views, Google hits, or facebook friends?

My theory is that it really all comes down to who it is that actually notices.

Some things can get talked about on other blogs—it’ll get digged, and twittered, and maybe even sent along to you by that boss who loves e-mail forwards. But to be truly viral, it has to go mainstream.

Everyone remembers the coverage on lonelygirl15, the teenager’s blog that turned out to be a hoax. That got attention from every nightly news station in the country. Something you could definitely call viral. Even the Mountain Dew commercial featuring Chuck Norris was a brilliant use of a viral phenomenon. While it did leave my mom a little puzzled, it was the perfect inside joke for the few million people who have read Chuck Norris Facts.

So, sure, the “Don’t tase me, bro” University of Florida student got his fifteen minutes of fame and several remixes, and even the Obama girl had an appearance on a Saturday Night Live sketch, but I think this Thanksgiving saw the greatest example of something that is considered “viral” come to the public eye …

If you happened to watch some of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, you may have seen a float with waving children and dancing puppets. As they go into their song and dance, the music is instantly interrupted by none other than 80s pop star Rick Astley performing “Never Gonna Give You Up,” which might seem strange to those who haven’t been “Rickrolled” yet this year.

This Internet phenomenon involves a bait and switch type of prank where unsuspecting internet users click on a link which instead takes them to Rick Astley’s music video. On April Fool’s Day 2008, YouTube and several other Web sites “Rickrolled” millions of people (myself included). How did this even become a trend? I’d say the best explanation comes from Wikipedia.

But when tens and millions of families get Rickrolled simultaneously on national television, well…that’s when you know—it’s viral.

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