Going Viral Ain’t For Wusses

NOTES FROM THE HENGE

A crowd-funder looking for views

Went viral while tryin’ to amuse

The hoopla ensuing

Involved so much viewing

He’s now drowning in web-clicks and booze.

 

So somebody on the internet now wants to translate my YouTube video into Arabic.  Someone else thinks what I’ve done is a total fake and I hired an actor to play young me.  Another thinks it’s all been done way better before.  And I suck.  And my thingy sucks.

TROLLING FOR DOLLARS

Crowd-funding isn’t great for us thin-skinned introverts.  If you normally shy away from social situations, feel uncomfortable asking people for help, and tend to try to be anonymous and/or just mildly amusing on social media, then crowd-funding bites.  Seriously.  But it can also a good thing.  A great thing.

And going viral?  Absolutely crazy.  A madhouse.

First, a little back story.  Lemme explain the weird project I’ve been funding so you get an idea what I’m blabbing about here.

Shorter Poster
time travel talk show

So way back when I was 18 years old, during the dark ages of 1977, I interviewed my future self. I recorded hours and hours of footage on a state-of-the-art (for its time) video camera my dad had on loan from the local PBS station.  I sat in a well-lit chair in a blacked-out room and asked my invisible future self every damn question I could think of (about career success, social life, health, hobbies, friends, money, politics, sex life, etc.) and then I responded to every possible answer I might get back from Future Me.  Amazing stuff.  A genuine “time travel talk show.” An imperial buttload of raw footage.

Well, I’d been avoiding facing that overly-optimistic bearded teen self for 38 years.  But, following a recent health scare (thankfully a false alarm – whew!), I realized I wasn’t going to live forever and it was time to finish this time-warping conversation.

You can see a fun, short “proof of concept” video here.  Cool, huh?  I’ve recently been told there’s been some other similar projects floating about over the years, but never anything exactly like mine, as far as I know, and never one started earlier than my humble little film.

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the roar of the crowd

So I decided to crowd-fund the full project.  I joined a contest funded by Ovation TV’s new Creative Studio project in cooperation with RocketHub.  They were great.  Very supportive the whole way.

But I still had to deal with the fundamental issue: I’d have to reach out to tons and tons of friends, family, acquaintances, and, yes, even strangers, asking them all for money and support and “signal boosting.”   Not even close to my comfort zone.  A truly horrifying prospect.  An introverts worst nightmare.  I hate asking people for help, let alone money.   Yick.  Look up “quiet loner who kept to himself” in the dictionary and you’ll see my picture (next to every serial killer).

But I bit the bullet and reached out.  I forced myself WAY out of my comfort zone.  And it ended up being really cool, actually.  People can be super nice. And it was surprisingly awesome to reconnect with a lot of folks I’d lost total contact with over the years.  The girl I went to the prom with almost 40 years ago contacted me, having seen the video on TV.  Suddenly I was reconnecting with school chums, old work mates, ex girlfriends, college buddies, and folks from my childhood. Peeking out of my shell maybe wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

I’m Viral? Is there a Salve for That?

And then my crazy thing started going viral.  Yup.  This was both thrilling and somehow really frightening. No joke.  It felt like a bizarre tsunami.  All kinds of media sites picked up on my video one after another and tons of people shared the links.  My humble little slapped-together “proof of concept” video was getting a massive amount of views on YouTube.  First there were an amazing 10k views (which seemed very impressive at the beginning), then 20K, then 50k, then 100k, and soon it was nearing a million views.  Freaky.  Very cool, but also very weird.  People all across the freaking globe were watching my short little video, checking out my double chin and pasty complexion.  From India to Canada.  From Saudi Arabia to Fargo.  And they all had opinions. Strong ones.

Almost everything was incredibly supportive, and full of compliments.  It was very sweet.  But it was bizarre to have folks occasionally leaving comments like “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen in my life” and “You were so hot. What happened??” and “18-year-old you was a much better actor than you are now, IMO.”  Ouch.

My wife gave me really good advice about all this.  She said:

“You have ignore all of them equally. They’re all projections of the person writing them.  It’s about their issues.  So the guy saying ‘you’re fat and ugly and a loser’ needs to be ignored.  But so does the guy who says ‘you’re a genius and a god.’  And, as much as the insults sting, the ’you’re a genius’ ones are actually the harder ones to ignore in the long run.  And the ones most important to ignore.”

Wise words.

So here I am.  Still in a maelstrom of articles and interviews and posts and views and tweets and comments.  But I’m trying to just take a breath now and then.  In and out.  And appreciate the ride as best I can.  And, mostly, appreciate that perhaps I’ve managed to connect with a few folks in a cool way.  The best feedback I’ve gotten has been about how my short little “proof of concept” film has actually moved people deeply, and motivated them to get in touch with their own inner teenager.  And maybe even reconcile with them.  Some of the emails I’ve gotten have brought me to tears.  I only hope the final film resonates as much with folks.

Oh yeah, that reminds me.  Crap.  I still have to make that damn film I promised to make with the crowd-sourced money.  (Can’t I just buy a nice new car and skip town??)

NEXT TIME:

I’ll share some stuff about being interviewed.