People like puppies.
Yesterday, at 2p.m. (PST), the Facebook page Twogirlsandapuppy was created, presumably because two girls wanted a puppy and their dad said they could get one if their page got 1 million likes. It showed up in my Facebook feed because several friends had liked the picture, and five friends had even liked the page. Less than seven hours later, skeptical dad realized he’d be buying a puppy.
It’s also likely he’ll feel famous and land some TV interviews, and there will probably a lot of articles on the Internet about him and his family. If he plays it shrewdly, he might also make some money off of this. Of course, it doesn’t seem like that was his motivation; incidentally, they removed their orignal request for donations (see below).
What compelled over one million people to like the photo of people they’d never heard of and ask their friends to do the same? Well, people do like puppies. But there’s something less simplistic at work, I think.
Facebook is a sociological fishbowl.
Facebook (and other forms of social media) is a sociological phenomenon. Where else can we learn so much about people without ever paying them to take surveys or investing in time and effort to get to know people on a face-to-face basis?
Facebook used to ask me, “What’s on your mind?” Now it asks, “How are you doing, Keren?” It’s gotten a lot more personal. And in more ways than what is on my status update window–what, how, and how much people share has changed as Facebook has evolved. Of course, maybe the Facebook gurus realize that we’re tired of hearing what’s on peoples’ minds–cute baby pictures and kitten memes, please!
By keeping an eye on FB statuses, I can tell when there’s a football game on (e.g., statuses of “no way!” “stupid refs!” and “Roll Tide Roll!”), when we’re in the middle of elections (e.g., well, I won’t even go there…), and when Downton Abbey is on (e.g., statuses of “Free Bates!” “Poor Edith!” and “Vulgarity is no substitute for wit.” Right now, I can also tell that firearms and the second amendment are really, really important to a whole lot of people.
We’re also watching people and families grow and expand on Facebook. One day, we’ll be able to say, “why, I remember back when they changed their status to engaged.” And then we’ve watched six years of pictures pass by as a child’s birth announcements can be searched for after we see pictures of their sixth birthday party. Whole new windows of pictures and posts are allowing us to see parts of life few of us ever see in real life: birth, death, what people’s bathroom mirrors and neglected closets look like, inside the rooms of homes, people doing things they don’t want photographed, and the list is endless.
And then, there’s the time you accidentally like a status, group, or post that you’d be horrified for people to think you actually ideologically aligned with. But there’s smart phones being smart for you: autocorrecting, and placing the “like” button right in your thumb-scrolling path. Even such uncaught mistakes are all dumped in to how we develop our play-by-play perceptions of who people are.
It isn’t just Facebook, though.
48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, yet only a small handful go viral. Kevin Allocca, trends manager at YouTube, discusses what makes videos go viral in this (very funny and interesting) video of his TedTalk:
He attributes it to these 3 things:
- Tastemakers (people with influence)
- Community Participation
Certainly, social media is changing our world. But one thing hasn’t changed: people love puppies. Even better? Cute kids gonna get some cute puppies. Oh, and another thing that hasn’t change? telling people about their politics without having to deal with the awkwardness that exists when you bring up the same topics at family dinners. To some degree, ranting and raving show up at both the social fishbowl and the literal face-to-face. But the awkwardness isn’t quite the same when you’re punching buttons behind a screen.
Facebook works, because it combines so many characteristics of humanity, and everyone can watch and participate if they so desire.
I wrote this, too, as an experiment. When I wrote this, there was only one article listed a news article on 2girlsandapuppy. By now, there are least two. I’m just testing out my Internet.
My kids want puppies, too.
I doubt this will go viral, and I doubt I’ll make a cent. But, hey…you can always buy me a coffee. Or a book about puppies.
(Or, if I get one million donations, I will buy a house in the country and buy my two girls a puppy, or two puppies. But shh…don’t tell them they can use Facebook to get a puppy quite yet!)