The Glitter of the Internet

Recently, we learned the difference between viral media, spreadable media, and sticky media from the excerpt of the book Spreadable Media. What most of us call viral would actually classified as spreadable. Adorable cat videos that your friends post all over your social media feeds are an example of spreadable media. Your friends found them and they appealed to them so they wanted to share them with you in hopes that you’ll enjoy them. Opposing spreadable media is viral media that holds true to its name. This media comes in the form of such things as pop ups and diverted web pages. A person doesn’t go looking for it, it just shows up and spreads itself through clicks in the right places.

Where viral media uses trickery and lies to spread itself, spreadable media needs to convince actual people that it’s worth sharing. The following graphic from Harvard Business Review shows why the sharers of a particular video shared the video.


From the chart, opinion seeking is the biggest reason why people share. The video made an impression on them and they want to see if their friends and associates have either a similar opinion or possibly even a dissenting opinion. The other top reasons for sharing, social utility and conversation starting, also revolve around a sharer’s friends. With this tidbit of information, the best way to make a video, picture, or hashtag go viral is to make it so that people will want to share it with their friends and their friends share it with their friends and so on until it’s everywhere, like loose glitter.

Another aspect of getting spreadable media to launch is to launch it from the right location(s). A video of rabbits playing hockey loaded only to YouTube might go ‘viral’, but it’ll take a long time for someone to sift through the millions of videos on YouTube and find it and then share it. If you load your rabbit hockey video to YouTube and then link it to every access point you have on the internet, then it has a better chance of spreading. Eventually someone of note on the internet will find it and post the hockey bunnies to their blog or site that has hundreds of thousands of followers and then it becomes glitter.

Just think of places you were introduced to ‘viral’ videos on the internet; chances are it was on a popular site. Have you ever seen a ‘viral’ video before it was ‘viral’? Have you ever posted something that was found later on somewhere you didn’t expect to see it?



  1. jackthethird · October 29, 2015

    I really enjoy watching cringe-y stuff from time to time, and back two years ago I was watching the collection of awkward moments from Minecon( for the curious: There is one moment in there where a kid asks a developer about the “amount of dedidated wam needed to swerver”. This eventually took off in the days following the video, but being there and seeing it before/as it took off was an experience. It was such a simple little thing, yet it was so memorable that people quote it to this day in some circles.


  2. dwilson2811 · October 29, 2015

    I use an app called IFunny on my phone that is in a sense a social media site based on the sharing of media both found and created by the user. The app actually finds the top 20 or so items that have been created recently, not quite sure how it’s chosen, and then post them as “Featured” about every four hours. These ‘Features’ could be considered viral, at least for the app community. The app also allows you to look through everything that has been posted, over 300 thousand and growing, and there have been several times that I have found later in the features the same post that I saw earlier that day. I always get the feeling that wow, I saw that first and thought it was cool and should be featured, or else I didn’t like it and wonder why everyone else did like it. Does anyone else have other apps like that that brings that kind of feelings?


  3. madelinejewell · October 29, 2015

    I like your metaphor to glitter. Like real glitter, when we’re naive (like children) we want to have all of the glitter in the world, and when we’re older and have more life experience (like right now) it turns into an annoying mess. Kids might want to share glitter glued to a piece of construction paper, and glitter (like cute bunnies) is still nice every now and again, but teens and adults would rather share real art.


  4. falkja · October 29, 2015

    I really enjoyed reading your article and how you connect it to what we learned in class. Your blog used the charts really well and how you classified the different terms. I have not really ever seen a video before it went viral. But I have listened to music and then a few months later it became “mainstream.” Which I feel is about the same concept. It is always a good feeling knowing you found something first.


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