The Anatomy of a Viral Video from a Viewer’s Perspective

There were many before – but until recently, it was Gangnam Style; and now it’s Harlem Shake. A significant portion of any Internet-using nation’s population has seen or heard about these viral videos.  And not only that; aside from accumulating a huge audience, videos that amassed global fame are most commonly parodied and uploaded unto YouTube and other video-sharing websites, thereby further fuelling the celebrity of the original videos.

My mother, who was unaccustomed to the Internet until a few months ago, has become my regular resource for the latest videos to take the cyberspace by storm. Being the thoughtful mother that she is, I am often left several voice mails throughout the day telling me to check out ‘5 peeps 1 guitar’ and ‘Lindsey Stirling’, or other new hits on the YouTube.

There’s no exact formula, as far as I can tell; but one thing the video has to have, I believe, is similar what that television show is looking for: the X-factor. I, for one, have just realized that I have no idea what types of videos I would end up liking. To illustrate: I saw that video of a dad who butchered his daughter’s laptop with a gun and a hatchet after she dissed him on Facebook; while I dislike guns and any kind of violence, I found that video so hilariously funny.viral video

Shock factor 

I think the closest thing to describing that X-factor is the shock factor. However, ‘shock’ does not necessarily pertain only to the normal images people associate with the term, which are usually negative (e g. excessive amounts of violence, expletives, inhumanness, etc.). Shock could also be positive, and an excellent example would be the infamous audition to the television show called ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ by Susan Boyle. Her voice was so shockingly good and unexpected (frankly, because she looked like a frumpy old lady who might be adorable if not a little unhinged), that she ended up winning second place in the competition, singing in front of the Queen of England, and raking in an estimated net worth of £22 million to date.

The now infamous Harlem Shake videos are, for me, shocking for the total absurdity of the trend. You have these people dancing like deranged animals to music that seems to be calling terrorists, with one guy wearing a ridiculous helmet and the rest with their different props and crazy repetitive dance moves. When I first saw one, my eyebrows were drawn together in bewilderment with the question “What are these people doing?” running through my head. But as my mom (who was peeking from behind as I watch from my phone) started giggling like a little girl, I found myself laughing as well.

The ideal viral video

Personally, I want my videos short and sweet. I dislike having to wait until the end of a 20-minute clip for the punch line, and it will definitely turn me off if it ends up not being good enough to make me want to watch anything from the same creators. Singing or good scoring is always nice, as it further heightens the impact of the video. It also helps if it’s made with a good quality camera; though content yet remains king and beats any well produced video with a crappy concept. Lastly, spontaneity is almost always appreciated.