Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 12 April 2011
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Eccl 3:11)MAIN POINT: Viral marketing is the in-thing now. When something goes 'viral' on the Internet, it is a ticket to stardom. However, such phenomenon can unwittingly corrupt the value of the ordinary in at least two ways.
It used to be that one can only go to Hollywood if one has the right connections, the right talent, the right resources, and the right opportunity.
It used to be that one can become famous only if there is enough publicity, enough media coverage, and endorsements by big names and popular stars.
All it takes is the phrase: "Your video has gone viral!" and fame (or parodies) comes looking for you.
Social media networks are fast dumping the old paradigms. ‘Viral’ is a new term used by a new generation. Academics research it. Marketers look for it. Youngsters love it. Long–established stars hate it. Not too long ago, the word ‘viral’ was largely restricted to a medical condition, or close to being ‘virulent.’ Even then, it was not commonly used. With new avenues like Youtube, the word 'viral' has gone virulent.
A) The Viral Effect
|The Viral Effect|
[Credit: Cool Town Studios]
On April 11th, 2009, a British lady wowed the audience with her beautiful rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” during an audition of Britain’s Got Talent. She received a standing ovation by the audience. She got showered with one accolade after another by the judges. She won the attention of everyone because she performs the unexpected.
All these are nothing compared with what happened next.
When her performance was released on Youtube, within hours the video gets more than a million hits. In other words, it has gone ‘viral.’ Susan Boyle has done what traditional artists would have yearned for. Instant fame. Instant publicity. Instantly rich.
Barbra Streisand needed more than 10 years before she getting noticed with her first hit. Madonna’s singing career failed to take off until she decideed to blend in some sensational and sensual acts with her music. Even the king of modern pop, Michael Jackson took quite a number of years to move from the Jackson 5 to a ‘Michael Jackson’ that many of us fondly know. For Susan Boyle, her meteoric speed to fame makes Streisand, Madonna, and Michael Jackson pale by comparison.
Boyle is not alone. Ask Justin Bieber. Talk to Rebecca Black. Even cute babies that seem to be talking intelligently to each other have gone ‘viral.’ It is no longer the true worth, but 'viral' worth that is the new currency of fame.
POINT: The viral effect turns the ordinary into what they are NOT.
B) The Profit Impact
More marketing companies are paying attention to social media networks in search of the ‘viral effect.’ In a world where clicks can be translated to dollars, anything that can increase viewership means cash. This is one reason why Google has been so successful. Sometimes I wonder how a company that offers many free things can grow so profitable. On top of a complimentary search engine, Google dishes out free Internet browsers, free emails, free Office-compatible programs, free blogs, free WiFi, free storage and many more. The answer is the ‘viral effect.’ Advertisers pay big money to get their names onto popular pages. They feed Google on a pay-per-click platform. They pay the company to get their products and services on popular pages, like how certain companies pay a million dollars for a 30-second commercial on Superbowl breaks.
The numbers are mind boggling. The viral effect tears down the walls of traditional barriers of entry to fame. In a culture where number of eyeballs equal to profits, it is only in the interest of marketers to tap into this viral effect culture. The ordinary man or woman in the street can become unwitting participants in this social marketing phenomenon.
On a weekly basis, I will get emails from friends about a certain amazing feat by an animal, a little child, or even a silly clip that looks more like a snip from “America’s Funniest Home Video.” The wow factor grows from one user to another until it spreads like a contagious virus. Even little children reading Bible verses are not spared. Just this week, there is an amazing 9-year old who is able to recite the entire Bible story without notes. It too went viral. My question: Are we growing a generation who is more focused on going viral? Should we not cultivate true worth more than viral worth?
POINT: The viral effect is profitable. Unfortunately, it undermines true worth.
C) The Corrupting Aspect
My college professor of Spirituality once said: “Christian spirituality is attending to the ordinary.” The reason is that we need to learn to give ordinary things or people the value they have. Not more. Not less. Just for who or what they are. We do not make cats out of dogs. Neither should we switch genders for the fun of it. God created man as man, and woman as woman. When we try to manipulate God’s creation and turn them into what they are not meant to be, we become corruptors of God’s beautiful creative work.
The viral effect, for all its sensationalism, can and will corrupt. Like power, viral stuff corrupts and absolute viral corrupts absolutely. To the ordinary person, once he/she gets hooked on the viral phenomenon, it becomes like a drug. Ladies try to outshine Susan Boyle. Boys attempt to become a better Justin Bieber. Many parodies have been made to ridicule Rebecca Black’s viral hit, ‘Friday.’ Perhaps, such parodies are attempts to be ‘viral’ videos themselves?
Like a drug, the viral effect can be addictive. If a 9-year old can recite the Bible story without notes at all, maybe an 8-year old can beat him. Or a 7-year old, or a 6? Once a person gets hooked on the crazy little thing called ‘viral,’ he gets de-sensitized to ordinary things, in his pursuit of extraordinary stuff. He looks out for highlights without much consideration for the rest. He unconsciously develops an elite mindset, quickly forgetting about the rest of the ordinary world. Unwittingly, he becomes a ‘viral marketer.’ As the viral effect tightens its noose, victims cannot breathe. In preferring the sensational, they are less likely to appreciate the ‘ordinary.’ The corrupting effect works both ways. It fattens the ordinary with non-natural additives. It thins out the natural with artificial means.
POINT: The viral effect can and will corrupt.
D) Redeeming the Ordinary
Ordinary things need to be given their proper worth. Not too much. Not too little. Just nice. Give them credit where credit is due. The moment we start comparing with ‘viral’ superstars, we diminish the quality of our loved ones unconsciously. Ask a little kid how he/she feels when the parents start to compare them to what they see on Youtube. Good singers can perform a wide repertoire of songs and not get even a single audition. Horrible singers who cannot even sing a single song can go viral. This is how corrupt the world has become.
We need to put the value back into the ordinary. I am not talking about fame or name. I am not even talking about making ordinary things extraordinary. I am referring to is to treat everyone as unique in themselves. Recognize God’s beauty and purpose in creation. The mountain is beautiful not because the media tells us. It is beautiful because God made it beautiful. God makes all things beautiful in His time. In other words, just because your video has NOT gone viral does not mean it is bad. Likewise, just because your video HAS gone viral does not mean it is good.
For example, the world may deem a mongoloid or a deformed child ugly. However, parents of such children will always see them beautiful in their own way, no matter what the world thinks. This is how God thinks of us. This is how God thinks of the world. We should not let the viral effect tell us how beautiful or amazing some video clip is. Neither should we let viral marketers make use of us to promote something into what it is NOT, or to censor away the beauty of God’s creation.
I pray for a growth of another kind, that of an appreciation of the ordinary. I pray for eyes that will learn to see and value things based on God’s eyes on them. When we learn to see from God’s perspective, we will appreciate the poor woman who gives her two coins willingly. We learn to take notice of the lame and the blind in society that they need our love too. We begin to cherish the children we have in our homes, without being distracted by what other child prodigies on the internet can do. When we learn to see from God’s eye, we put the value back into the ordinary. We begin to see God’s creation beautiful in God’s time.
One more thing. Anything viral can corrupt. The most dangerous ones that those that corrupts one softly and surely. Beware of the crazy little thing called ‘viral.’
THOUGHT: We do not need a 'viral' phenomenon to tell us what is worth watching or not. All we need are eyes to recognize the value God has given them.
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