The Surreal Unpleasantness of Going Viral

It was an obvious quip in response to New York Times assistant general counsel, David McCraw’s, letter to Donald Trump’s lawyers. McCraw’s letter was fine, but kinda dull. It was a yeoman’s response to a yeoman’s demand. Given the circumstances, he could have had a bit more fun with the letter, though most readers are so pedestrian, pompous and official that anything reflecting even an iota of wit would be off-putting.

No sense of humor. What is it with people gushing over boring, official-sounding lawyer letters? Why do people adore stuffy?

So, I jumped in with a reminder about my favorite lawyer letter ever on the twitters. For most of us, there was nothing new in the letter at all. We’ve all seen it, loved it, laughed at it. But as they say with summer re-runs, if you didn’t see it the first time, it’s new to you.

Cute, right? But no big deal. Certainly, my piece of the twit was nothing of note, and the letter from Cleveland Browns general counsel, James Bailey, was nothing new. But then the weirdest thing happened. It went viral.

As of this moment, this twit has 5,507 retwits and 9,383 likes. It has 1,261,603 impressions and 174,652 engagements. That’s a lot. Yes, this stinky little twit went viral. No, my occasional deeply thoughtful, witty, illuminating twits may get a couple hundred retwits, on a really good day a thousand likes. But this one, viral.

After I twitted it, my notifications column in tweetdeck showed a couple retwits. The little chime went off. Bing. Silence. Bing, bing. Silence. Then all hell broke loose. The notifications column looked like a slot machine wheel, spinning like crazy. The bings were furious, the tone near constant. At first, I had no clue what was happening, assuming that the twitters broke. Did I break the twitters? Oh crap, somebody is going to make me buy it if I broke it. Slowly, my reptile brain figured out what was happening.

When the twitters whirls like that, you can’t tell much of anything about what is happening. The likes and retwits spin by so fast you have no clue who is doing it. People would twit back at me, but I couldn’t see it. People I actually know, whether in real life or on the twitters, would twit at me unrelated to this one insipid twit, and would immediately disappear in the spin.

I tried turning twitter off, but it didn’t help. Since I used twitter’s notification function, the notifications kept popping up on the screen, over and over. For hours after it was turned off. I was, in effect incapable of using the computer as the damn notifications made it impossible to use other programs. Twitter owned my computer. Twitter had taken on a life of its own.

Random twitterers asked me whether the letter was real, because my role on the twitters is to answer questions for people too lazy to look for their own answers and who assume that social media entitles them to other people’s time and interest.* Other random twitterers informed me of their favorite lawyer letter,** as if anybody asked or because the twittersphere is all about them. I learned these things later, after things calmed down a bit and I was able to scroll through to see what I missed.

For anyone who thought I was ignoring them or being a jerk for not responding during this period, I apologize, but this is why. I couldn’t see your twits. I had lost control of the twitters.

I understand that people with blue checks on twitter get additional functions. Lee Pacchia asked me to get myself verified, along with him, for Fault Lines. Lee got a blue check. I did not. I’m fairly sure that the prigs who censor twitter have me on a list of people to hate on twitter, and they consider blue checks an award to be doled out to only those men sufficiently obsequious to their feelings that they are willing to be neutered. So, I didn’t have the tools to deal with a twit gone viral.

But was it fun? Was it worthwhile? Did I feel . . . important? On the contrary, it was an extremely unpleasant experience, made doubly bad by the fact that this twit was so banal. I gained a couple hundred new followers in the process, though I suspect they’re going to eventually realize that I twit other things than funny letters and flee me for their safe spaces.

What I can’t figure out is how those celebrities with millions of followers do it. If someone, say the highly talented and insightful Kim Kardashian, burps on twitter, she’ll get tens of thousand of likes. How does she function? Beats me. Even with the cool tools available to celebrities, this has got to be a huge annoyance and handicap.

On the bright side, at least my viral twit was about James Bailey’s letter and not me. My twit may have gone viral, but I remain as obscure as ever.

*I was informed by some eggboy on the twitters the other day, a random twitterer with a handful of followers, how twitter worked. It was social media, I was told, its purpose was for me to engage with him upon his demand. If I didn’t like it, I should get off, but otherwise I was duty-bound to value the twits of others and comply with their twits. This happens all the time.

**I received many responses about a letter in Arkell v. Pressdam. It was fine.


18 thoughts on “The Surreal Unpleasantness of Going Viral

  1. Nigel Declan

    My condolences on you having, as the youths (pronounced, of course, My Cousin Vinnie-style) say, won the internet.

      1. Jim Tyre

        A couple of years ago, a twitter virgin, who clearly knows nothing of technology, damn near DDoS’d himself to death with his first tweet, having failed to disable either the notifications column or the email notices.

        His twitter handle is @snowden.

  2. maz

    “What I can’t figure out is how those celebrities with millions of followers do it. If someone, say the highly talented and insightful Kim Kardashian, burps on twitter, she’ll get tens of thousand of likes.”

    There’s a good chance the celebrity (maybe not Ms. K, but, you know, a celebrity famous for what he or she does, and thus needs to take time to do something) never actually tweets. Instead, it’s the celeb’s social media marketing manager (or in the case of A-list or K-class celebs, their SMM team) that’s responsible for wrangling tweets, Instagrams, Vines, and all such content dribblets that make yesteryear’s publishing ephemera seem carved in stone. Even that notorious foot sharp-shooter Donald J Trump fields at least two staffers with access to his feed who are often called upon to retract, obfuscate, or simply deny something that seemed a good idea at 4 a.m. At the highest end, managers forgo even Twitter’s black card edition tools in favor of custom-built, weapons-grade applications capable of promoting items of apparel or skin-care product at speeds typically associated with flash trades on the stock market. SMM managers can pull down six-figure salaries — which sounds absurd until one learns an Instagram product placement might earn an A-list celebrity $500,000 and realizes the bar for ‘absurd’ is much higher than previously imagined.

  3. john Neff

    That is why in ancient times before rodents and touch pads when we only used keyboards we had the KTF command. The folklore is that was because IBM was testing a high speed printer and there was a tight loop that included a skip to next page command.

  4. Casual Lurker

    I was amazed at how Joan Rivers managed to posthumously tweet how she “loved her new iPhone7”, having just received it. I guess she buddied-up to Steve Jobs in the afterlife to pull a few strings? Or… maybe it was just your typical social-bot on autopilot, which is a lot cheaper than an SMM.

          1. Casual Lurker

            I’m told it’s not what it used to be. The word from comrade Stalin is he truly misses those days when you could just march your detractors out and shoot them, sans show trials and kangaroo courts.

  5. PA

    “… Other random twitterers informed me of their favorite lawyer letter,** as if anybody asked or because the twittersphere is all about them.”

    Was the “as if anybody asked” bit really necessary? That was snotty – no one asked for your twit either. I love your work and read your blog daily, but that comment was not cool. Confidence is attractive, arrogance, not so much.

    1. SHG Post author

      Since you asked, my twit was not sent @ anyone, as opposed to random others who felt the need to specifically twit their opinions @ me. That’s the difference that you failed to recognize. Is there a reason you think my decision to include that was subject to your approval? If I didn’t want to include it, I wouldn’t have. I did. You don’t have to like it, and that’s fine, but in the same vein, I’m not really concerned with whether it meets your approval. Hope that helps.

      1. Casual Lurker

        To preemptively fend against the copious misanthropes, you might consider adding a link to some type of boilerplate EULA to your tweets? You know, the type of flotsam you typically see in EULAs, along the lines of: “…the suitability of this tweet for any particular purpose is not guaranteed… No warranties were expressed or implied… Our Butthurt disclaimer is hereby incorporated by reference… Etc.

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