Saturday, January 26, 2019

Teenage Smirks, American Indians, and Viral Conspiracy

What makes a video go viral? Any web content can "go viral" when people see it and can't help but share it. Then their followers agree, and they also share it. The item becomes well known because lots of people agree that it's worth seeing or hearing. 

But some content reaches the attention of the masses in spite of its lameness. Such content may be boring, confusing, or pointless. Yet somehow, everyone is posting about it. When you see this stuff, you wonder, "Did I miss something?"

For example, imagine a video of a teenager standing in a crowd while a native American bangs on a drum while invading the teen's personal space. The teen smirks. The Indian bangs and chants. And then...nothing. That's it. The most compelling element of the encounter is awkwardness. 

How can something so dull go viral? Well, throw in some MAGA hats, and preface the encounter with jeers from some Black Hebrew Israelites, and you have...well you still don't have much.

It turns out that there are some Twitter accounts that work together to make certain posts appear to be blowing up the internet. These accounts create a feedback loop that grows larger and larger, until their chosen posts account for significant internet traffic. People look because it appears that everyone else is looking. Then "real news" reports on it because it has so much traction.

So, who is creating these fake virus conditions? How do they choose to which stories to promote? How are they spinning these stories?

Here's another question: How gullible are we? When we see/hear/read something on the internet, do we come to our own conclusions, or believe "everyone else" who says it is shocking, or enraging, or whatever?

If we are this gullible, then Russians could take advantage of it, stir up American rage, and divide us bitterly. Sound familiar?