The ‘Viralocity’ of the Human Race by Karen Leslie Hernandez

karen hernandezIn the past month I have found myself getting sucked in by #Walmartpeople and #viralvideos. In fact, I was so sucked in that Facebook even recommended one such video to me and I watched it several times. However, I don’t watch because I like these videos, and I didn’t re-watch this particular video because I enjoyed it. I watched it because to me, at least, it was so obvious that this woman was, and is, mentally unstable and I was so caught up in the viral aspect of this video. Yet, when you read the comments, people are outing her identity and Facebook page, calling her several expletives such as #slut and #uglybitch, simply adding to her hate. Hate, as we all know, begets hate.

I am perplexed by this whole viral video thing. It’s almost as if it’s a goal—your video goes viral and you too could end up rich, even when you have no talent—just like #KimKardashian. A world where you can become famous, making millions, from one post on Instagram because you once made a #sexvideo (that now costs over $10 million to buy) is mind boggling. Even more so that people support this, because if they didn’t, there wouldn’t be this hope for videos to go viral.

Ever wonder if the video you are watching really started off the way it is being presented now? Such as, #animalsoutsideforfirstime, or the compilation videos of #stupidpeople getting hurt. I could swear that some of those people in those videos might have broken backs after those falls—possibly paralyzed for life. Yet, we don’t see that, so, we LOL, or LMAO, or JAJAJA, or LOLZ, or ROTFL. Then there are the videos where animals are featured with their ignorant humans—those humans that put their children near their dog while eating and the dog snarls, showing their teeth, with a message of how good their dog is—#lookMydogdoesntbite! Or that video of the cat laying upside down on the dashboard of a moving car, with all the hashtags: #animals, #cats, #socute, #babyanimals, #adorable. What most people don’t get is that the dog showing its teeth is not enjoying that experience and is, in fact, ticked off and could quite possibly bite the child, and that the cat on the dashboard is actually in a state of panic that is essentially paralyzing him until the car stops moving. And, lest we forget, the “good Samaritan” videos—you know, #goodpeople. Those acts of kindness that are staged but made to look random and “out of the blue.” Every time I see one of those particular videos I am reminded of Matthew 6:1–4.

Then there are the #racists caught on video. Those are always eye-opening because, yes, people really do think that way. I read an account the other day of a young woman on the #BART train here in #SanFrancisco. She detailed her account on Facebook and said that as she stood in-between a racist woman who was threatening a Latina on the train, not only was she the only one to intercede but, as this woman who chose to stand up against racism and bigotry was getting beat up by this racist, people brought out their phones and started to film. Instead of stepping in to help, they felt it was better to video the incident. Was this just in case it might be their lucky, viral chance? This woman came away with scratches to her face and arms, but otherwise okay. But at least, if it would have been worse, it would have been caught on at least half a dozen phones! #Thankgoodness. I’d be so upset had something major happened to that woman who chose not to be a bystander and it wasn’t caught on video for the world to see.

When I first thought of the title for this piece, I wondered if “viralocity” was a word. When Googled, I found this page at the top of list—advice on how to make sure your social media page gets lots of hits, by one of the most followed peeps on Facebook. WOW! Impressive.

Which leads me to the latest trend—murders and suicides, live, on Facebook. Last week, a man in Ohio #murdered another man on #FacebookLive and, this week, a man in Thailand killed his eleven month old daughter live on Facebook, and then committed suicide off camera. I keep waiting for #Facebook to make an announcement that states that they are removing the Facebook Live feature—that they see it contributing to the good in the world but that these last two cases, especially, are cause for alarm and they need to re-assess the Facebook Live option. #Nothing. Instead, sometime today, someone will commit #suicide, or some sort of act of #violence, via Facebook Live, and people will watch.

Because it’s all about the viralocity, you know.

Who’s the most popular?

Who gets the most #likes and #comments.

Who is the #winner at leaving #humanity behind while getting that one minute of fame?

How many shares did that video get?

At what #velocity do we achieve viralocity?

Did it make it on to #TMZ or #GoodMorningAmerica?

If so, we should all be #impressed.

One viral video at a time, making #AmericaGreatAgain.

Is this phenomenon a lack of #morals, #ethics, #compassion, #scruples? Is this desire to watch a viral video an outlet for us because inside we are all so angry and desperate and these videos help us live out our rage or fantasies, without us having to do so ourselves? Is this viralocity so rampant because we so desperately want to be noted for something, anything, before we leave this planet? I am not sure. What I am sure of though is that it’s ridiculous and it’s sad and, at times, it’s downright #scary.

As a #raging #feminist, I am especially disturbed by the graphic, #sexual nature of some of these viral videos and pictures that, in fact, #famouspeople inspire. Young girls are watching these videos, as well as viewing these pictures, and they are trying to emulate women who are famous for “going viral.” Where does this—and more I wonder, how does this—end? Do we really want #women like this to be #rolemodels for our young girls? Because they are, and that’s a sad #reality.

Maybe I am just on a #soapbox and I need to not be such a grumpy #50yearoldwoman. Maybe I need to #suckitup and realize that this is our #world. Maybe I need to get with the times, accept change, and view all this differently and with an #openmind. This is #socialmedia, after all.

Or, maybe I am #right and this form of #media is taking away our ability to behave with dignity, grace, and compassion, and it is literally crushing our ability to recognize humanity in its most raw and desperate form.

Unfortunately, I believe it’s the latter. You?

Karen Leslie Hernandez is a Theologian and interfaith activist. With a focus in Christian-Muslim Understanding, as well as religious fundamentalism and extremism, Karen is the only theologian who is a Latina and a United Methodist, doing this type of theological work in the US. She has published with several media outlets including the Women’s United Nations Report Network, The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue/Studies, the Interfaith Observer, and she is the only Christian to publish an ongoing Op-Ed Column with OnIslam out of Cairo, Egypt. She loves to teach and last year designed and taught an Interfaith Dialogue workshop with Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago. Karen currently lives in San Francisco, is consulting with the United Religions Initiative, is an Ambassador with Parliament of the World’s Religions, and she also does Domestic Violence Faith Advocacy work across the US.


Categories: fear, Feminism, General, Relationality, Relationships, Violence, Violence Against Women


2 replies

  1. When I was younger, I occasionally bought People Magazine at the check-out counter as a guilty pleasure. I am not even tempted now, because I don’t recognize anyone on the cover. I am a technophobe who has resisted every change and finally succumbed so as not to be entirely choked on the dust I’m left behind in. I have never owned a camera and don’t know how to use the feature on my iphone. I am so far out of the culture of viralocity, I find your report of it deeply dismaying.

    Every technological advance–telephones, television, computers, hand-held devices–has carried a loss and the potential for abuse, in this case horrifying abuse. On the other hand, the ability of almost anyone to film has revealed police brutality that has been going on forever unchecked. Nothing about it is new, but it was easier for authorities to deny it when there was no record. Also, without the same real time documentation, we would never know about the militarized, potentially lethal force turned on unarmed water protectors at Standing Rock.

    So I am torn. Part of me wants to leave a planet where people post murder and suicide videos on FaceBook–and people actually watch them. Part of me wants to make sure our stories are told and witnessed. Social media, like all things human, is such a mixed bag.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve never watched a viral video. You’ve convinced me that I’m not interested in watching any now, nor am I interested in most of what’s on Facebook or Twitter or…….or……..or…….. The social media in general just don’t interest me. They give us way too much information. Many thanks, therefore, for writing this post.


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