What it’s like to go viral

“Lol speak for yourself bitch. Stay classy!”

– Megan McCunt, lolnowhodoyouthink@lolno.com

Going viral is a lot like skydiving. I’ve always wanted to do it, but was never quite sure I had the balls. One day, the Internet pushed me out of that shaky, hypothetical airplane (without warning or a parachute) and the free-fall was equally terrifying, incredible, exhilarating, and awful.

Two weeks later, I landed, and it was all worth it.

At 10 a.m. on April 8th, I published a piece I feared would flop, but knew had heart (and good grammar). By noon, my open letter to the Class of 2014 had fallen into the laps of those it was written for, my alma matter’s Class of 2014 (because — let’s face it — I never expected the story, or my friend’s face as she cradles three bottles of Fireball, to go viral). Sorry Shannon.

By 1 p.m. it was spreading like wildfire at campuses across the country. From SUNY New Paltz to the University of Miami to Providence.

The fire was far from out.

The first milestone — 5,000 views — came by 5 (“FIVE FUCKING THOUSAND, MEAGHAN?” – my best friend). In less than an hour, the count crept up to 35k as I hand-picked avocados and held back tears in the supermarket with my closest girlfriend. 40k. 50k. 100k.

Casual.

I bought name-brand waffles to celebrate.

By 8:49 p.m., I had a fridge full of deli meat and my first hater. Megan McCunt (clever). With that came the (weirdly enraged) accusations of entitlement.

“Your treat was 4 years
of bring a privileged white girl,
now STFU and do something about it”

 

“This is an open letter for brats”

 

“Good luck floating by while you pamper and kiss your own ass in the giant mechanism called life. You will surely sink, and fast.”

 

“Thanks Obama.”

And they didn’t stop there. Every new comment sent my heart straight to my vagina, but, for every unapologetic comment from someone who missed my point by miles, there were 50 more — from college seniors, fellow post-grads, and big-time bloggers all over the world — that got it. That really got it, and that got me (without even having to scroll).

These readers got something out of my my totally lighthearted, 600-word, not-at-all-meant-to-be-taken-too-seriously piece for seniors. (I still stick by wearing more sweatpants.)

By noon the next day, I had 200,000 views (from the states to Saudi Arabia), 100 new followers (that aren’t my friends), a new gig at a site called Writtalin (that I accepted via Twitter. How 21st Century.) and one e-mail from the Huffington Post. A real-life editor with a professional headshot wanted to feature my piece (and subsequently my face, a brief bio and blog) on HuffPost College.

It was April 9th — one day before my mom’s birthday (and the six month anniversary of her death) — and I was featured on the Huffington Post homepage. That night, 20 of my closest friends packed a hometown bar in her honor and toasted with shots of Coors Light. To her, and to me because it doesn’t take a medium to realize this was her way of saying, “Fuck ’em.”

Fuck ’em to all those readers, anon or not, who told me to stop doing my nails and get a career because (spoiler) I have one — and this is it.

Stress hives aside, here’s what I took away from five minutes of Internet fame:

  1. The Internet is a terrifyingly beautiful thing (HEY, READERS IN MALAYSIA).
  2. If you build it, they will come and if you write it, they will read. Especially if you share it on Facebook.
  3. Not everyone will be your biggest fan and, most importantly, not everyone will get it. Your words will be misread and twisted and spit back at you in a way that makes you cringe. Take each comment with a grain of salt (and glass of wine).
  4. Some readers will take a line as light-hearted as “treat yourself” and turn it into “drop out of college and become a prostitute.” HEY CLASS OF 2014, DON’T EVEN GRADUATE.
  5. Others will make assumptions without any facts but their own (FYI: I am, in no way, a privileged white girl. I worked my big white ass off to be where I am in my career — and I’m doing it entirely on my own). Slip into a thicker skin (and stock up on wine).
  6. The rest of your readers will make it all worthwhile (and your roommates will be waiting at home with a bottle of decent wine, wrapped in a bow made from the plastic bag it came in because they’re boys).
    afterlight
  7. Ghosts of friendship’s past will come out of the woodwork just to say, “Hey, I read your blog.” Your ex might not. Be flattered anyway.
  8. This is what I want to do and, nearly 300 followers and a Freshly Pressed badge later, I know I can.

This is an open letter to every friend and every stranger that shared my post: Thank you. To every blogger that gave me a chance and jumped on the bandwagon. To every bartender that gave me a free drink for being published in the Huffington Post (kidding, kind of). To my mom for giving me my first journal and pushing me to keep writing (no matter how often I wrote about Good Charlotte, George Bush and Harry Potter).

To my college professors and newspaper predecessors for shaping my craft.

To the 14 people that like me as an author on the Huffington Post (that’s a thing).

To all those editors who still believe in me (hey, Ascher) and let me do my thing.

To WordPress for giving me a (free) platform.

To my roommates for that bottle of wine.

To everyone reading this right now, thank you. I’m just getting started (haters gonna hate).

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17 Comments on “What it’s like to go viral

  1. How people treat others is a direct reflection of them, not you. Megan McCunt can take a moment to think about that. Additionally, what she should probably take a moment or two to explore is that when you encounter something / someone that you dislike, it’s usually because it’s something you see in yourself, or you wish you had. I’m erring on the latter with Miss McCunt.

    You’re a rockstar, love. ❤

  2. Haters are gonna hate and unfortunately there isn’t anything we can do about it. People that feel the need to be negative in that manor usually have issues of their own that only they can fix. Just keep doing what you love and follow your dreams! I love reading your posts even though I seem to be at a different stage in my life ( graduating with my masters) I can still relate to what you’re saying 🙂 keep up the good work!

  3. Hey Meghan!

    Loved this. I remember reading your “Open Letter” and thinking “shit, why didn’t I think of that?!” (and then proceeded to read the rest of your stuff). I had one of my first posts go viral (and was not at all mentally prepared). One day I logged into my analytics page and saw that 250K people were on my blog in real time. Insane. Didn’t realize that this would lead to jerks in dark corners of Internet (heyy Reddit) saying really stupid things about me. Then I remembered that if people actually cared what these trolls had to say, they would have blogs with thousands of followers… and they don’t. But we do, so, YOLO.

    Anyway, I’m in the midst of switching over my blog from Tumblr to WordPress, and I’m scared to post because A) I’m nervous I will lose all of my followers and I’ll never have a viral post again. B) Comments aren’t a thing on Tumblr, so it was pretty easy to keep the haters at bay… who knows what people will say here. Time will tell I guess!

    Wow, k, moral of the story: love your blog, keep doin’ your thing!

    Lindsay

    • WOW. THANK YOU. AMEN. HALLELUJAH.

      You know what I’m talking about. So glad you reached out and actually follow my shit (HEY GIRL HEY). I’ll be checking out yours immediately. But yeah, the internet is a terrifying place, but one that leads kick-ass writers like ourselves (humble bragging, YOLO) to each other.

      Keep doing your thing, girl.

      Cheers to going viral (and the haters – hey, Reddit).

  4. Pingback: 16 New Year’s resolutions I will (probably not) keep | Meaghan McGoldrick

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