Going viral on the Internet

Going viral on the Internet
Photo by Ravi Sharma / Unsplash

It’s been a while since this happened, so I thought it would be a good idea to write about now. A few months back, I tweeted something that went viral. I was in a meeting with a couple of colleagues, when we were asked to leave our room for the next meeting. I quickly looked up for available meeting rooms, found one close with the number 404. As we walked to the room, I casually joked that we are going to not find the room. It may have been the delivery of the joke, or that my colleagues had other matters to discuss, the joke didn’t quite land well. But it had found an audience, the Internet.

Shortly after the incident, I tweeted about it. I don’t have notifications for any apps enabled, so never got the memo that people liked the tweet. A few hours later, the tweet had ~50+ likes and a dozen retweets. I was glad someone found the joke funny. At this point, the tweet had left my circles and random people I’ve never seen on the bird site started liking it. A few commented as well. And soon, within a span of 3-5 days, the tweet garnered close to 40k+ likes, 8k+ retweets and 400+ responses. While Twitter only shows partial follow numbers, I had some 600+ followers after I tweeted this according to their advanced analytics.

It did not take time for the tweet to become viral elsewhere. Once the tweet became viral, screenshots of the tweet started appearing on Reddit, 9Gag, Facebook, Linkedin and elsewhere. On Linkedin, someone who posted the tweet went viral gathering 160k+ likes and 3.9k comments. My partner refused to believe that my joke was funny, until Guy Kawasaki reshared it on Linkedin. So in terms of engagement, Linkedin definitely takes the cake.

But something starts to happen when you go viral. The initial responses to the tweet were light-hearted “haha’s” and emojis. But as it started to find a wider audience, it starts to attract polar opposite reactions. On Twitter itself, the reactions ranged from “this is a terrible place to work for, how can someone in IT not know this???? You should quit your job.” to “This is pathetic. You never cracked this joke, This never happened and stop trying to hog the limelight”. I was sent links to the posts on reddit, 9gag which were not so kind, but I didn’t really bother to check on them. I guess the anonymity of certain social networks allows people to say things freely. Remember the golden rule on the internet, Do not read the comments!

The tweet’s reach was not limited to the online world and started to seep into offline world as well. I’ve walked into meetings and people asked me if I was the guy from the viral tweet. A couple of my friends working at Meta got in touch with each other after someone posted it to the internal shit-posting employee group.

Fascinated with my new follower count, and the dopamine rush still high - I decided to continue the charade and try be more funny. I tweeted this right afterwards, and suffice to say that the engagement on this tweet gave a reality check to the fleeting nature of virality on the Internet.

So all in all, it’s been an interesting experience to go viral, even if momentarily on the Internet.

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