Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

Why Media Spreads, Part 1 – (Aug. 30)

Posted by cliffordpaulparsoniiiesq on November 27, 2016

Every other day, it seems, I see a viral new phenomenon pop up on the Internet. Be it the Black/White/Blue/Black dress, a dead gorilla, or a rapper’s latest on-stage outburst, media events shape our day to day discussion, both on- and offline. What’s ironic is how there’s always somebody complaining about something silly being popular, which inherently feeds in to an event’s popularity.

In the case of the confusing dress that no one agreed on the color of, I didn’t even know about it at first. I saw a post that said something along the lines of “Like if you don’t care what color the stupid dress is!” The post itself blew up, of course, having invited a response (a like) from people who share an opinion (the dress is stupid).

It’s amazing how debate and controversy is what drives so many viral media. Sometimes it’s a literal debate, such as the dress, but other times it’s a real-life event that doesn’t prompt questions, but incites different opinions from a lot of people. Harambe is a good example—I heard opposing views as to whether the zookeepers should have responded the way they did, and I didn’t know what to think after hearing only other people’s thoughts. When I actually watched the footage, I gained more of a consistent outlook on the incident.

Media doesn’t spread on its own. It relies on people who have shared and differing opinions on it. However, it doesn’t control our minds. I was able to form my own opinion on the Harambe incident, but only after I examined the situation firsthand—Not based on the skewed view of one side describing it to me.

The book encourages us to be a part of spreadable media. The authors discuss how social media makes us part of the experience in unprecedented ways. However, it’s still important to think for oneself. What you see on social media is not “just the way it is.” When a viral media event shocks the world, only you can determine that.


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