4 Reasons 'Viral' Content Stopped Mattering in 2013
The word "viral" means very little nowadays. Everyone is clamoring to get their "content" front and center, but they're not very concerned about what that content contains. When there's a new music video of Miley Cyrus playing with her vagina's tongue through the sheets, every "content" site posts the same thing: the name of the video, a detailed paragraph stating that the video exists, and an embed of the video. And that's it. Check it out on BuzzFeed or Crushable or Hypable or Funbizzer or Yesclick or Roflshare or whatever fucking place.
I am legitimately surprised that no one has scooped up this domain yet.
Everyone tried so hard to go "viral" this year that the word barely has any meaning anymore. Virality didn't just jump the shark. It ate Henry Winkler, shit him into the underground oceans of Europa, and then did a kick-flip over the frozen turds. Going viral has looked into infinity, and it cannot return. Here is how and why ...
Everything Is Literally the Most Hyperbolic It Could Possibly Be
I want it first to be clear that I'm not talking about adjectives like "mind-blowing" or "terrifying" or "baffling." As prevalent as they are and as much as they may bug you, these words are helpful to readers. If there's an article called "5 Horrifying Truths About Being a Medical Doctor," the word "horrifying" tells you what kind of truths will be covered. Without that word, readers have no idea what to expect other than "something about doctors". Again, I get that "mind-blowing" and "horrifying" are used a lot on the Internet, but these words are not the problem.
I've got 99 problems and all of them are this.
There is a desperation to get clicks now, and it's apparent in the language used. It's not enough to post 14 hilarious interviews from Ellen in 2013. We have to post "14 Ellen Interviews From 2013 That Made Us Literally ROTFL." Next year, we'll be posting "The 14 Most Hilariously Funny Ellen Interviews That Made Us Laugh Until We Laughed Even Louder and We Never Stopped Laughing, Seriously, We're Still Laughing, Help Us, We Can't Even Eat Food." Hyperbole is helpful, but use it too much and it means nothing.
For the purposes of this article, I'll say I wouldn't mind scrolling through a list of old Saved by the Bell characters. However:
Things like this baffle (yes, "baffle") me, because it doesn't even sound like someone exaggerating in order to really hammer home how great this stuff is. When you're this hyperbolic, you move into sarcasm territory. I can't tell if you want me to think this article is worth reading, or if you want me to see that it's obviously a bullshit waste of my time and you didn't even want to write it in the first place.
The hyperbole gets worse when celebrities are involved. The time used to be that you could pick up an US Weekly or StarZone Power Magazine and you'd read about how celebrities are just like you. They go to the bread place at the block of stores just like you. They carry that bread in shopping carts as they walk out of those stores, just like you. Celebrities walk near stores.
S-Mez gets her armpits scrutinized via digital photograph enhancement just like you!
But on the Internet, that attitude is on the complete other end of the spectrum. On the Internet, celebrities aren't just like you, because they're more than amazing and you're worse than just fucking terrible.
Sorry, people with families, but you're not as cute as this family in particular. Because you don't have moments like this:
Yep, look at the cutest thing ever: kids sitting on their parents' laps! Holy shit adorbz I am squee-ing cum out of my emojis right now that's so fucking cute. Not like you and your shitty family, because you don't sit down at [some place] with your kids on your lap. You probably just lie down at home doing nothing while your kid deposits turds onto your lawn.
And wait... "When the fam was caught in this adorable moment just being cute together?" That's so vague I could have some kind of reaction to it. As proof that this family is cute, you're citing an "adorable moment just being cute together"? That could figuratively mean literally anything.
Like taking your kids to Disneyland:
Ignore the blurry families in the background. They're not cute, and they are not at Disneyland.
Yes, exactly. Like the adorableness of reading out loud on a plane.
Oh, and by the way, you and your brother are actual garbage ...
And in 2013, Emma Watson had 28 flawless moments that were the most flawless of her many flawless moments, because apparently there are varying degrees of flawlessness.
Sure, this moment had no flaws, but this other moment had more no flaws.
Sometimes things get so hyperbolic that no one actually knows what their opinion is:
Please note that all of these are written by the same fucking person.
But one thing's for sure: In 2013, Jennifer Lawrence was the Master of the Universe.
And let's talk about Jennifer Lawrence real quick. Google "Jennifer Lawrence perfect (or 'flawless')" and you'll find tons of articles from the BuzzFeeds and Crushables and Popuclicks of the world. Now, I understand that she is The Internet's Sweetheart right now, deservedly so. She's extremely talented, beautiful, and honest and real. But here's the thing about Jennifer Lawrence in particular: She is not even close to flawless, and that's actually the entire fucking point.
Aside from all of her strengths, she's also awkward, clumsy, maybe not super bright, and she apparently shit her pants at least several times before the Catching Fire premiere. And she's also open and honest about it, which is great. People love her because of her flaws, because she's completely not perfect. Because she reminds us of our own shitty selves who maybe don't bother putting on pants some days. She admits that she thinks acting is actually kind of stupid (and so is she). Jennifer Lawrence is just a regular piece of shit like us who got into a car accident because she thought she saw Honey Boo-Boo. By lifting her up on a pedestal, you're defeating the message that her existence creates. You're ignoring the fact that she's "just like us," and you're ignoring how words work. No matter who you're talking about.
No, Beyonce's album did not redefine perfection. You did. You redefined it. Because ...
No One Knows How to Use Words Good
A popular trend over the past year or so is that people are always assuring me that something they tell me will restore my faith in humanity. I won't bother posting an example, because you absolutely know what I'm talking about, and we've done a few of them ourselves. There are also many people who assure me that they can destroy my faith in humanity. But actually ...
No matter what GIF you show me, no matter how many funeral selfies I see, my faith is unshakeable. That's the thing about faith. You have it even in the face of reason, and it is often strongest during times of darkness. If I have faith, despite being aware of humanity's shortcomings, my mind is certainly not going to be changed by this ...
... Partly because they're all works of fiction, but also because Oldboy was dope. If anything, this list would restore my faith in humanity, because look at what we're capable of: creating heart-wrenching, disturbing, thought-provoking films. That's pretty cool, humanity. Good job. Even though you don't always know how to do words great.
"Definitive" followed by "Might Possibly" (aka "Maybe Probs," aka "I Mean I Guess, I Don't Know, Yeah?"). Here we've used one of the most vaguely indecisive phrases coupled with one of the most aggressively decisive words. Why, Internet, are we using words in this way? Just call it "42 Armenian Stereotypes" and get it the fuck over with. It's like people don't know how to say what they may not even know they're trying to say.
Whether it's overabundantly adjectival, redundantly repetitive, or bizarrely and unnecessarily vague, talking this way makes you sound fucking stupid. I'm sorry, but this apology is sarcastic. I'm completely not sorry, because of things like ...
"The whole interview thing." Or, you know, "interviews." I can't tell if the person writing it is stupid, or if the person writing it just thinks we're all stupid.
Aaaand I still can't tell. I'll breeze through the part where I point out that it should be either "If you think ... you're wrong" or "If you thought ... you were wrong," and go straight to the part where this should have actually been called "If You Think Words and Images Haven't Been Used to Convey Complex Ideas for Thousands of Years, You're a Fucking Idiot and How Are You Even Reading This Right Now?"
When you post an article called "23 Problems Only Parents Will Understand", you really mean "23 Problems Parents Can Relate To," because I'm not a fucking two-year-old, and I easily understand how getting up at 6am to take your kid to soccer on a Saturday wouldn't be fun. Now, I know it seems like I'm nit-picking at this point, and you can think this entire article up to this point has basically just been one long Grammar Nazi rant, but I'm not correcting some dickhead's remark in a reblog of a Dr. Who GIF, or pointing out the errors in some Reddit comment thread. These are professional websites staffed by (I can only hope and assume) a lot of smart people. It's like no one even cares.
That's not made up. It's a real post. I've changed my mind. It's not like no one cares ...
No One Cares
Throughout this article and in this section in particular, it's going to seem like I'm picking on BuzzFeed, but I assure you that's only because I totally fucking am. Not because BuzzFeed is the only offender here, or even the worst offender (as I've pointed out in the past, they actually do great political journalism and interviews). But they are certainly the most popular offender, with the most "content," so I'm focusing on them. Also, they do things like take an article of ours from 2009 and turn it into a video of theirs from 2013. Also? Just in general, I have a fond dislike of them and their lists.
Now, we at Cracked are obviously no stranger to the list, in the same way that strangers are no stranger to people they know. In all honesty, we were one of the first sites to start using the list format, and their popularity web-wide is probably at least partly due to our success (and according to Slate, we're the best at it). Cracked, of course, didn't invent the list -- that was done by the first human who thought of a second thing -- but Cracked did realize early on that people tend to click on lists more than anything else. Unfortunately for a lot of sites out there, setting something up like a list still doesn't mean your content contains anything.
That's from a blog I run, BuzzFeed Without GIFs, and it's exactly like it sounds. As each post proves, it doesn't matter if you slap the number 18 at the beginning of your list. What you're producing is still essentially just a single paragraph from a 5th-grader's journal entry. And honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if the teacher gave it a check minus, because there's so little thought that goes into this stuff. So little care. It's churned out as quickly as possible, with little planning and no viewpoint. It's why articles about Saved by the Bell characters don't actually say anything about the characters. They just say that the characters existed. They never say anything about the '90s, they just want you to remember them. Over and over and over, until every week or so, there's a new post about how Tamagotchis were once a thing.
But again, this is not only about BuzzFeed. The Hypables and ShareLOLnets of the web all know that certain topics go "viral," and everyone clamors to get something (read: "anything") posted about those topics. It's why there's an article about dogs being sick of pumpkin spice season. It's why there's an article about how candy corn sucks dick a week before there's an article about how candy corn is better than getting your dick sucked. "Oh, people like Disney princesses with beards for some terrible reason? Let's do Disney princes without beards. Yeah. We nailed that whole great idea thing."
In the month of December this year, there were 15 pieces about Home Alone on BuzzFeed alone. "Why Kevin McCallister Is Not Your Average Kid," "If Buzz Had Instagram," whatever the hell you want about Home Alone. It doesn't matter, because it's Christmastime and Home Alone is a Christmas movie, so I guess we'll try to come up with 15 different articles about Home Alone.
That is, I kid you not, basically just a play-by-play of the events of the film Home Alone. They just tell you what occurs in the movie. It's what happens when you try to post 15 things about Home Alone in a single month. And what will happen next year when everyone posts about Home Alone and pumpkin spice again? Will people just forget that they read the same mindless garbage just 12 months prior? Or maybe this overzealous topic-gorging will soon make people figuratively literally throw up, and we'll have to come up with new, original things to talk about. We'll have to come up with something interesting to say ABOUT Home Alone, instead of just reminding everyone that it existed, which is something that happens an awful lot now.
In case you're wondering, the 37 WTF moments are actually just the 37 things that happened in the episode. It's a description of the episode. What the fuck indeed.
This happens more and more everywhere, because it's become clear that people are entertained by intelligent deconstruction of pop culture. Unfortunately, not many people actually want to do the work, and one of their Unanswered Questions From Willy Wonka winds up being "Why can't all flowers turn into teacups and taste like candy?"
Everyone's in such a rush to "ruin your childhood," because that's how you get those tasty share-clicks, but maybe there's actually nothing childhood-ruining about Home Alone, because even when you're a kid you know Kevin's parents are careless and that the film is violent. Those horrifying lessons we learned from Mulan are all actually just things Mulan went through in the first two acts of the film before she overcomes them in the third act, because that's how movies go.
Again, this comes down to lack of care. So much so that these are real:
It's not the "I'm on a Boat" we need, or the "I'm on a Boat" we deserve, but it's the "I'm on a Boat" we're forced to consume now, because...
Everyone Is Literally Literally Begging and Commanding You to Click on Their Bullshit
These, too, are real:
You have to HAVE to pleeeeeeeease cliiiiiiiiick meeeeeeeeee I fucking daaaaaaaaaare yooooooooooooou.
(ps- pls share this if u like puppies or kittens or both. "like" it if u are human. thx.)
Cody is a columnist, video writer, performer, and editor for Cracked.com. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr and probably some fucking stupid new thing called Blankyarm or TrendFriender.
As 2013 draws to a close, be sure to check out Cracked's year in review because, well, we know you don't remember it half as well as you think.