Viral Media: Society is Obsessed with Humanity at its Worst

OK, so let’s be honest, as a society we’re infatuated with the downfall and corruption of others’ lives. Whether it’s Lindsay Lohan’s latest trip to rehab, or Charlie Sheen’s latest public outburst, we just can’t help ourselves—we’re obsessed.

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But why? Why is it that we’re so attracted to celebrity life and the supposed “reality” media we’re surrounded by? Maybe it’s a subconscious security blanket; we know that no matter how bad or unhappy we may be with our own lives, there’s always someone else out there to distract us with their self-inflicted chaos. A bit cynical, yes, but not insane. Regardless of what the true allure to viral media may be, it is just that, viral. We love to gossip no matter how much we claim to be “above it”, which in turn leads us to sharing viral media content because we enjoy the hype of another’s failures, and we need to share that shock value with a friend.

Demeaning or Entertaining?

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Honey Boo Boo is great example of our obsession with viral media. I know it’s terrible, but I can’t stop watching. I guess it’s like that saying, “it’s so awful that you just can’t look away.”  If you’re not familiar with the show, Honey Boo Boo is a reality show on TLC about a young pageant girl from rural Georgia.  Her show is actually about a low income family that does some pretty crazy things.  For example, Honey Boo Boo’s mother gives her “Go Go Juice,” which indeed is a mixture of Red Bull and Mountain Dew.  She drinks this to get prepared for pageants and dinners—yeah, let’s just say, NO COMMENT.  The harsh reality is that this is one of the most popular shows on TV. The next reality is that it’s absolutely humiliating and revolting.

The More Chaos, the Better

Just as television shows go viral, so does content. People love to be shocked and awed. This is why the celebrity breakdowns and aspiring teens desperate for attention, have our attention.  As a writer or blogger this can be a powerful tool for driving traffic to your site. Celebrities that have a personal blog just to ramble on about their atypical lifestyles have often gone viral.  Society loves drama, so the more dramatic, the better.  It starts with one fan or follower and then spreads like wildfire. Within minutes, something that was once unknown, has now become a viral disease that the rest of society is forced to tolerate. By following trending keywords and topics on Google analytics you can attempt to learn your audiences’ behavior and predict what will get them clicking and infecting their social circle.

Double Standards = Viral Gold

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In the same regard, content that is contradictory can also be viral bait.  In this recent presidential election, we saw firsthand how contradictory media affects the way people feel and react. From social networks to blogs, to TV commercials, the routine battle of Republicans versus Democrats was eminent on every medium. For every “true promise” or accusation came a lie to stir things up. Even knowing that these very people we followed and attached to their every word were the very people who would be running our country for the next four years, we still found a way to make it all “entertainment news.”

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So whether it’s a television show or online content, anything can go viral spontaneously if it has the fresh perspective, emotional influence, or shock value to back it up.  For celebrity news, the more morally wrong it is, the more traffic or views it typically receives.  Whether you like it or not, society IS obsessed with humanity at its worse. But as long as the Britney Spears and the Kim Kardashians of our world still exist so will our obsessions. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to catch up on my Real Housewives of Atlanta episodes—Just kidding.

About the author

Monica Liriano