Last Updated: April 5, 2016, 3:22 pm EST
By Finessa Bedoun
Image found here.
Going Viral, by Karine Nahon and Jeff Hemsley, was a lot more interesting than I initially thought it would be just by reading the back cover. The concept of something going viral online seems fairly simple, however I learned that there is a more intricate process to it in this book.
Nahon and Hemsley’s included their description of what it means for something to go viral early on in the book – “Viral events are a naturally occurring, emergent phenomenon facilitated by the interwoven collection of websites that allow users to host and share content, connect with friends, and people with similar interests, and share their knowledge. Collectively, these sites have formed a social infrastructure that we refer to as social media. In this new information ecosystem, an individual can share information that can flash across our digitally supported social networks with a speed and reach never before available to the vast majority of people.”
One term I’d never heard previously in this context is “gatekeeping” or “gatekeepers.” Nahon and Hemsley describe gatekeepers as “people, collectives, companies, or governments that, as a result of their location in a network, can promote or suppress the movement of information from one part of a network to another.” One example is Facebook and how Facebook’s network gatekeepers can either promote posts in user’s newsfeeds or “control the flow of information by channeling, ranking, and promoting particular content over other content.” What this means to me is that Facebook’s gatekeepers can control what I do and do not get to see from my friends in my newsfeed, hence controlling the potential virility of some posts over others.
I’d always assumed that once someone published something online, viewers or readers would stumble on it or that they’d see it once it was shared and choose whether or not to share it themselves. I didn’t realize there were gatekeepers who could decide whether or not I see something within my own newsfeed.
Online, people who have large networks can affect how far their tweet or post can reach. Those with smaller networks won’t necessarily have the same impact on how far a post goes as those with larger networks. Regular Joe’s also may not have the same response to their tweets or posts as those who are more influential. Journalists, for example, who are deemed as trustworthy, might have a larger response to their posts and tweets and will reach a greater audience.
Another misconception I had prior to reading the book was that a viral post could include ones that were a little old but that had millions of views. The book clarifies this by stating that a viral post is one that gains many views over a very short period of time. An example of this is Susan Boyle’s Britain’s Got Talent audition, which went viral almost immediately, reaching almost 100 million people in just under 10 days.
In the book, the authors also discuss that just because something is popular, either on television or online, that doesn’t necessarily make it viral. When something goes viral, its because it was shared many times over a short period of time. Social media has a lot to do with this. It is incredibly easy nowadays to share things online. I can easily re-tweet a tweet on Twitter or share a post on Facebook or Instagram with something as simple as the click of a button.
I felt that the majority of the book, overall had strong content with lots of examples to support its main points. For example, when the authors describe “gatekeeping” and “gatekeepers,” they immediately dive into giving multiple examples of what gatekeeping is.
One of the major weak points in the book, for me, was that in many parts throughout each chapter, the authors start out with “In this chapter, we will talk about this, this and this,” etc. They do this many times, in every chapter and I found it unnecessary to preface a chapter or many chapters with this same phrase. I found myself skimming through the parts where they said, “we will discuss in this chapter” or “as we discussed in previous chapters.” I thought it distracted from the text and I found myself wanting them to just get to the point. I would have preferred if they had just jumped into the content without stating what they were going to discuss or what they had already discussed.
Overall, I found the book to be interesting and thought it was a good read. I would recommend it to other readers and learned a few things I hadn’t known before about the ways that things can go viral online.