Virality is a funny thing. It’s like catching lightening in a bottle. Very few do it but those that do catch the bullet train. So I am always fascinated by the “science” of virality and studies on the topic.
It’s one depressingly typical minute of the 6.2 million uploaded to YouTube every day: In a Montreal park, nothing much is happening. The camera pans around a clear blue sky, tracing the arc of a golden eagle as it twists and turns through the air. The bird pulls a generous sweep around a large tree, 30 feet or more, shorn of its branches by the bitter frost that hits the Quebec city this time of year. And then things turn from dull nature documentary into snuff film.
The eagle doesn’t continue its elegant acrobatics. Instead, it suddenly picks up pace. The sweep becomes a swoop, and it’s dropping altitude. Eleven seconds into the video, a small boy in a warm insulated jacket comes into frame. He’s sitting faced away, staring into space.
Eleven seconds into the video, you realize what’s going to happen. Eleven seconds into the video, the eagle is 10 feet behind the little boy, and you’re damned if the way the bird’s wings are drawn up doesn’t remind you an awful lot of the way Dracula wraps himself in his cloak before biting. It’s horror-movie stuff.
Except none of it is real. A great read for this weekend.