Why is it the good, the bad, and the unnecessary that always go viral?

My trip to Hawaii got messed up when this happened and the cruise line won’t give me a refund.

If you waste more than 15 minutes per day looking at Yahoo news or Facebook, it will be easy to get the impression that everything about the human condition that you really don’t want to know about went viral eight minutes ago and you’re the last to know.

Even deadly viruses are losing out to videos of some guy running over a kid’s new tricycle and rude customers in fast food restaurants screaming at cashiers who won’t sell them an actual whopper instead of a burger with so much bacon on it there’s no room for the bun.

At first, it’s a bit humorous. On Facebook, people use the smiley face a lot to indicate that in an online world gone nuts with the inane and the innocuous, pictures of cats sleeping on a sofa get more attention that announcements that a person has gotten married and/or fallen into a volcano at a scenic location.

Weeks later, folks on your friends’ list hear a rumor about your wedding or the volcano incident and scream, “OMG, when the hell did that happen?” If you say, “It happened the same day you were clicking on hundreds of pictures of cats shredding throw pillows or pigeons throwing up in the back seats of brand new convertibles,” they’ll (the friends) run off in a snit.

As an author, I won 200 Nobel/Pulitzer/Hugo prizes last year and nobody heard about it because pictures of some guy in bed with the wrong bride at a deluxe honeymoon hotel in the middle of a volcano kept grabbing people’s attention. The whole Internet has turned into a hideous car wreck and even people who say they don’t look keep looking.

All of this came to mind today while I was updating my website and happened to see the statistics page that tracks people who almost stopped by but then didn’t because:

  • 10% were looking at a cartoonish video showing a fake snow storm in a fake forest and commenting, “ain’t nature beautiful when it happens somewhere else.”
  • 10% were arguing about the differences (if any) between “to,” “too,” “two” and “2.”
  • 10% were reading the comments at the end of a news story about attention deficit disorder where they thought it necessary to say, “real news has gotten so long these days, I never make it to really horrible stuff that I never used to look at.”
  • 70% were stuck watching a Facebook video of a dog licking its butt in a hurricane while little old ladies couldn’t cross the street because none of the Boy Scouts noticed them.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you’re not online enough to catch the irrelevance disease or notice the world is going to hell in a handbasket while citizens stare at slow motion videos of hummingbirds having sex.

Scientists warned us all this crap was going to happen but nobody saw the story because they (whoever) were hooked on histrionics.


Malcolm R. Campbell has two cats, but them I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of them taking a leak in a birdfeeder on a clear day in Nebraska when they could have noticed they could see forever if they took a minute to look.