made a deal with myself when I started blogging: If I ever blogged about blogging I was going to hang it up. Surely that would be the harbinger indicating I no longer had anything interesting to talk about, at which point I should graciously bow out of the game entirely and fade into history, as opposed to joining the Kansas City Chiefs for a couple lackluster final blogging seasons *coughjoemontanacough*
Recently the “20 Things A Father Should Tell His Daughter” post from a few months ago went completely (and unexpectedly) viral, and some pretty rewarding things happened as a result. Just this once I’m going to break my blogging-about-blogging rule and share a little about the experience. There’s a really cool family-related story at the end, so I hope you’ll stick with it.
I’ve always wondered what it would be like to create something that went viral (shout-out to my buddy Ron Fugelseth, who’s “A Toy Train In Space” set the standard for dorky-dad virality) – not out of some self-centered egomaniacal trip, but because the mechanics of virality (is that even a word?) fascinate me. If I was a sociology or media-studies grad student I would make that the topic of my thesis (tip-o-the-hat to fellow dadbloggers Ande Davis and Zach Rosenberg who have strong feelings about the value of a liberal arts degree).
Using my blog as a vehicle I’ve made a few half-hearted, cartoony things that in the back of my mind I thought had the potential to go viral. Over the 2012 holidays I put this one out there, quite impressed with myself and my own cleverness:
…until I realized what an epic fail it was because I neglected to include this culturally-critical elf. Virality-factor: zero.
When Muppeteer Jerry Nelson (Count Von Count) and Neil Armstrong died in the same week, I pushed my graphics skills to the max and put this one out there in cyber-space.
Perhaps the Jerry Nelson reference was too obscure. Again, virality-factor zero.
Over the holiday, while blogging about how I ordered my children’s Xmas gifts from the Skymall catalogue from the back of an airplane seat, I riffed off of the latest James Bond movie with this little ditty, again completely impressed with myself and convinced that other people would be too:
Of course you can’t will these things into virality. It has to happen on its own – organically. Dorkdaddy.com has had a few brushes with virality in the past. The first was January last year when Adam Savage retweeted a tweet I sent him about a post I wrote talking about science programs on TV. 1,700 hits on the blog that day. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Then, earlier this year, WordPress.com featured (freshly pressed) my post “It’s Just Sex, Dammit!” on their home page and suddenly my iPhone exploded with a constant stream of comments from dawn to dusk. Just under 3,000 hits that day and I was sure my little blog would never pass those numbers. Then last week, this happened:
Before this week the range on my hit-counter graph never needed to go above 3000 before. On Monday, a day when I published absolutely no new material, DorkDaddy.com topped out at over 6,700 hits – completely blowing its previous record out of the water. As the graph shows, most of the hits were happening on “20 Things A Father Should Tell His Daughter”.
To be honest, I knew that post had legs shortly after I published it. Within days it had been shared more than 200 times from this blog’s Facebook page. I was getting notifications that it was moving all over Pinterest and it got all sorts of attention when I published it on Good Men Project along with the companion piece “20 Things A Father Should Tell His Son”.
Then something odd happened. The Facebook page “Ace Your Figure” posted it to their wall, and from there it exploded (Ace Your Figure has significantly more followers than DorkDaddy.com’s Facebook page). Suddenly I was getting messages from friends who’d seen the picture/post months and months ago when I originally posted it “Hey. Check out what came back around the other end of Facebook!!” The picture itself isn’t some stock photo I stole from a google image search. It’s actually a picture of me and Episode IV. Friends of mine who don’t follow the blog recognized the picture from someone else’s news feed and asked me “Hey. Isn’t this a picture of you and your daughter?”
The post had gone completely beyond my sphere of influence and was now freely circulating, completely organically, through the Facebook ether. Even as I write this I just fielded a phone call from my wife. A girlfriend texted to tell her that an old college friend just posted the picture on her Facebook wall, and my wife’s girlfriend recognized me and my daughter in it.
It had gone viral.
Now the fact that something I made went viral is nice and all, but here’s the cool story where it all comes home.
Part of the miracle of Facebook is connecting with distant friends and relatives who in the past would have been completely lost to the fog of time and distance spent apart. My mother’s recently been very excited about reconnecting with some distant cousins of hers. It’s opened up a floodgate to wonderful childhood memories and emotional connections to long-passed loved-ones, memories that were heretofore packed away and almost forgotten. My mother looked forward to seeing news from her long-lost distant cousins show up on her laptop when she opened up Facebook.
And then, last week out of nowhere, the “20 Things” picture showed up on my mother’s newsfeed, shared by her long-lost cousin who she hasn’t seen in 30 years. My mother commented on her cousin’s post, “Where did you get that picture?”
“A friend posted it” the cousin replied.
“Do you know who that is in that picture?” asked my mother.
“No. I just liked the message, so I shared it.”
“That’s my beautiful granddaughter and her father, my handsome son.”
“You’re kidding me.”
“No. He’s the dorky dad who wrote that. He blogs about being a dorky dad and that was one of his posts.”
Promptly thereafter DorkDaddy.com’s Facebook wall received this message:
In what universe does your 2nd cousin once removed, someone you’ve never met or even heard of before, contact you over the internet because of a picture you posted of you and your daughter more than 4 months earlier?
It’s a brave new world. Welcome to the age of social media.