Media Meditations: Going Viral

In case you somehow missed this, I made a Tweet out of a Texans video of Deshaun Watson answering Aaron Reiss’ question. It went viral.

SportsCenter essentially copied the Tweet. (They didn’t use the Periscope video, so their version did not have hearts on it.) Deadspin wrote a post about the interaction. Big name media people ran with it all overnight on Monday — Ian Rapoport being the biggest domino — and when I woke up this video I made on my own, in my little computer room, was spun two million times. It only got bigger from there.

Let me tell you a little about the experience of going viral.

***

I don’t have any alerts on my phone. Texts and phone calls only. But every time I logged in to Twitter through Tuesday night, I was buried in notifications. I use web Twitter on my phone so that’s pretty much a constant 20+ popping up every five minutes — I use TweetDeck at home and pretty much every net push was a fresh batch of likes, tweets, comments, retweets.

This was oddly paralyzing as a user. Do I try to Tweet through the storm? It’s actually a little bit hard to have conversations with people on Twitter when this is happening. At the same time, I was fascinated enough by the reactions that I wanted to keep seeing them, so I didn’t mute the thing entirely. I actually put off posting all-22 clips by a day just because I knew I couldn’t have a conversation with anybody.

***

One thing I can’t recommend enough if you’re trying to go viral is to make something that can be viewed through every lens. I closely monitored the comments to this post. There were several groupings of comments, the pro- and the anti- side of each.

*The Bears fans who like Mitch Trubisky versus the ones who like Watson more. (One Trubisky comment on my original Tweet had over 3,000 likes on its own.)
*The people who were amazed by the information and what it took to play quarterback versus the ones who play Madden and were incredulous that people were amazed by this.
*The football coaches who want to use this to train their players versus the football players who already knew it all.

The Tweet itself was innocuous. I did that on purpose. “Deshaun Watson explains Carolina’s defense in 66 seconds” is vague as hell specifically because when I’m just trying to share someone else’s story, I don’t want to impose too much of my own mindset on it. It’s amazing that so much division and cynicism can come from that, but that is the world we live in today. I am literally putting things out there for you to react to and take and put your spin on. Sometimes your spin is positive. In many, many more cases, your spin is negative or angry or cynical. Or not funny. Sorry to tell you — a lot of the comments are not funny.

For the record, there was only one person who directly criticized that phrasing — they said (paraphrasing) “THAT’S NOT THE WHOLE DEFENSE.” So, in case you were wondering, yes, people can get mad at anything.

***

By far the biggest group of people, though, I had to address in an aside:

I would wager anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of the Tweets were people happy that Aaron “got dunked on” for asking the question. Let me expound on this Tweet for a minute.

I think major media is fucked, which is why I am writing here and not trying to use my time begging to freelance for bigger places. They have completely failed to address the major issues of the day because — and I say this as someone with a limited understanding of these things myself — most media people don’t know jack shit about advertising. Google and Facebook make all the money. The scraps that are left behind from most major content deals are enough to rig up skeleton crews and trap otherwise great people in jobs that will never make more than $60,000 a year.

Between major media failing to deal with how they make money properly, and major media backlashing that on the public with a sea of scammy advertisements or pop ups, I think most people do mistrust the news to some extent. My wife has negative feelings towards the Houston Chronicle because she was bilked by a salesman once and is on a mailing list that they simply won’t let go of. I can’t imagine this is an uncommon occurrence.

Media reacted to the money being gone by acting like every customer was a mark, and that made their consumers look at them with a more discerning eye. The New York Times has an entire Opinion team that could not possibly be more awful, because they use that rage for hits. We are all guilty of using your emotion against you to get your attention.

At the same time, with the freedom of social media and the self-importance that provides, you are now free to carefully build your own attuned culture of “media” however you like. Some people use that well. Some people use that to remain permanently angry. There are people who would use your anger to blind you to what they are doing to you. I don’t think I have to name names here.

Most of the reporters you interact with do not make a lot of money. Most of them are telling their truth. If their truth doesn’t resonate with you, that’s fine. But we are all so drowned in information and choices now that we’ve become a Dunning-Kruger effect society, and that — plus major social cues from certain other places I probably don’t have to name — just make us all tee off on caricatures of people we don’t know.

Aaron asked that question to get that answer. That wasn’t being dumb. That was about getting the reaction he wanted. But people wanted that Dumbass Reporter caricature to be true so bad that thousands and thousands of them — unprovoked by any kind of political anything — just went with it.

Popular Twitter is a dark, dark place. Or, as one writer I talked to this week said, it’s a “terrible but necessary place on the internet.”

***

When I take videos of the press conferences or media sessions and share them with you, I’m trying to be the editor you don’t have in your busy life. You could watch every Texans video and be drowned with a lot of stuff that doesn’t much matter to outsiders — yes, you’re all trying to win, you’re all going to improve this week, it’s a 60-minute game, etc. etc.

You could watch every Tim Kelly interview to try to understand if he is a robot or a person. One of my services is doing that for you, picking quotes I think are interesting or revealing — i.e. not Kelly quotes — and sharing them.

That’s a loss leader for me. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, think of it as a doorbuster deal on a big Black Friday sale. I post them to get you in the door, and if I get you in the door, maybe you’ll read my writing — just like an Amazon shopper realizes they’ll need batteries for this toy and they’re already on the website anyway. Once you read my writing … well, hopefully I can keep you reading, and eventually, perhaps you’ll pay for it to continue.

Watching what happened out of going viral made me appreciate the people who are positive and back what I put out often. There are tons of readers who come to something quietly now, because the internet has become more rage storm than they are comfortable dealing with in a positive way. Instead of trying to personally interact in fighting anger, they would rather shut down and just be quiet supporters, so as to not lose their own positive energy. I respect that.

So I want to thank people who have been very publicly supportive of my Texans stuff: Steph Stradley, bfd, Mike Meltser, Sean Pendergast, Seth Payne, the guys at TexansUnfiltered. And I want to shout out some of my smaller, quieter lurkers who I see surface only every once in awhile. I won’t splash your names out there.

Hopefully, if you came into the circle this week because Deshaun Watson nerding out on football is awesome, I can show you why you should keep reading.

One Reply to “Media Meditations: Going Viral”

  1. You’ve been my favorite Texans writer for more years than I can count. I’ll follow your writing wherever it goes.

    Thanks for all the good work you do!

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