Empathy For Justine Sacco: What It Feels Like When You Go Viral

Empathy For Justine Sacco: What It Feels Like When You Go Viral

Buzz Bishop Favorite Kid - Good Morning America

[twitter]Here’s an aside to the Justine Sacco drama that has unfolded in the past week. While her comments were absolutely disgusting, and worthy of losing her job as a PR rep for web companies, the subsequent mob chase of her through the alleys of the internet was out of line.

My name went viral, about a year ago. Not to the vicious extent to which Ms Sacco experienced, but still – my name was “everywhere” I looked for a week or so. We all seek attention when we publish online, we’re never prepared to face the mob when they actually turn and notice us.

I wrote this draft in September 2012, but just publishing it for the first time now to give a window of what happens when you go viral.

A friend of a friend works at the Globe and Mail, he likes to read my parenting blogs and one I wrote last week piqued his interest.

My article, Admit It, You Have A Favorite Kid. I Do, was flipped to one of his editors and The Globe wrote a piece for their Hot Button Blog.

That led to a producer at CKNW noticing it and asking me for a radio interview for the weekend. While we were chatting back and forth, more mentions of my article surfaced at Baby Center and The Today Show’s blog.

Things sat quiet for the weekend, before blowing up midmorning on Monday.

First the Daily Mail asked for an interview about the piece. They flushed out what I said, what the commenters had said, and then my reaction to their reaction.

This was the match the gasoline. Minutes after it went live, I received an email from a Senior Producer with Anderson. Then Headline News (actually 3 separate shows from HLN would eventually contact me). Then Inside Edition, then local TV starting seeing my talk about the attention on Twitter and asked for a piece. Then local print, then Good Morning America.

This is what Carly Rae Jepsen must have felt when she found out Justin Bieber liked her video, I thought.

It’s an interesting thing, to go viral. My traffic hasn’t spiked since the Globe and Mail article. But the media machine has me now, and everyone wants a piece. It’s overwhelming, and a rush – like when I went skydiving.

My heart was racing all day, the adrenaline was pumping but, at the same time, I was mentally exhausted.

Then RadarOnline then Huffington Post, and random blogs.

Empathy For Justine Sacco: What It Feels Like When You Go Viral

Then Dr Phil, Jeff Probst, at least 3 talk radio stations, and a TV station in Australia contacted me.

All because I said I had a favorite son. You can debate the merits of that statement’s newsworthiness, and the good coming from me writing a post about it. There are many avenues for you to have that discussion.

This going viral thing is very interesting. All of the show producer emails are crafted the same way. They tell you how great your story is, how interesting it would be to the audience, and how great the show they represent is.

I accepted the offers as they came in. Each asking for an ‘exclusive’ for their daypart. If I did Anderson, I couldn’t do Dr Phil. An appearance on GMA would mean no sitting with Matt Lauer on The Today Show etc.

I should really change the use of the word “offer.” Unlike paparazzi who sell their photos to tabloids, or celebs who sell exclusives to magazines, there is no money to be made when you’re a viral news item for a few days.

Sure, the traffic on my site has spiked, but that means a few dollars in AdSense (less than $10)revenue for me, nothing more. The original blog post, surprisingly, is not the focus of the discussion. There have been far more comments at The Globe and Mail and The Daily Mail than at the original post. My post and words are not the story, the headlines and interpretation of others is the story. I do not control my destiny here, it is a virus gone wild.

While some are proclaiming that I am facing a ‘backlash’ in the face of my admission, it’s a sizzle to sell the steak. The Daily Mail even takes creativity with the facts by saying I love my kids

It’s given me great perspective on what it’s like to be at the other end of a media lens. Everyone wants my story, but what am I gaining from it? I am a car accident that people are rubbernecking. I’m grist for the mill. After this balloon rises and falls, the media will quickly move on to the next sexy headline.

It only took about half a day before I realized I was possibly doing more harm than good. I’m putting myself on the stand for judgement without benefit. I’ve been infamous for a week.

Was it worth it? I’m not sure.

I would have preferred to have been famous for a week because of Team Diabetes, or because I inspired someone to greatness. I would have preferred to have something positive come from my infamy instead of just having my kids trotted across the screen for public opinion to execute as judge and jury.



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