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Going viral

Going viral

. 4 min read

There's a stomach bug being traded around within the larger blestnest family. The Captain and I sequestered our little family over the weekend, to wait it out. It's unlike us to isolate. There were some moments where the kids seemed a little lost without the usual bustle of cousins and aunties and uncles and neighbors coming around for a weekend meal or a swim or several of each. But we were bound and determined not to catch that virus so that our BIG SUMMER PLANS for June (and that's all caps because they are BIG) would be postponed, or worse, cancelled. So, we hunkered down in between spurts of summer rain and made crafts, watched movies, read, snuggled. We were not going to go viral.

Recently, I watched from behind-the-scenes as a clip went viral. It was surreal. And so stupid. A brawl broke out a local charity event a friend's workplace put on, she's their social media manager. (Forgive the vagueness, I don't want to add to this noise.) Instantly, bystanders whipped out their cellphones to record the fight as event sponsors tried to break it up. 30 seconds later, it was done, no one was hurt and everyone continued on their way. Some college bro uploaded his shaky video to an instagram page where college bros watch low-grade videos of such melee. Then TMZ picked it up, then the local news, then Good Morning America, then Jimmy Kimmel, then talk radio. For a week and a half my friend fielded phone calls from LA and New York and Atlanta, recited from memory her organization's the statement condemning the bad behavior, and nursed a persistent tension headache.

"We've gone viral," she sighed half a sigh, "you'll never guess who left me a voicemail this morning."

There are a lot of things I like about the internet. Going viral isn't one of them. 30 seconds of stupidity blasted through at lightspeed across a 3000 mile continent wrecked my friends' and her coworkers' and their event sponsors' working lives for a week, now bleeding into a month, simply because there was some space somewhere on the ever awake, vapid internet to fill. That two dudes got in a small bout of fisticuffs over a friendly contest at a charity event is not news. It's cancerous filler, like the kind people were terrified were in baby formula for a minute there when I was in elementary school. My family ducked out of a whole weekend of summer kickoff fun to avoid going viral. We avoided contact so we wouldn't contract an illness that can linger on unsanitized surfaces for days and weeks. That's how it is with these little clips and soundbites that are ripped out of context and go viral. They're ubiquitious, contagious, and a real time suck. You can avoid a whole 2-3 days of puking if you just avoid them. You can go on to accomplish your grand plans (like our BIG SUMMER ones). A recent CDC study found that people with norovirus (stomach bug) infect 14.1 people if they don't restrict their social contact and begin washing their hands.

That's how stuff that goes viral on the internet is too. It is not a good thing. We need to be meticulous about our online hygiene. It's always flu season on here.

The internet itself can be a real time suck. I've spent cumulatively hours clicking down rabbit trails only to resurface a little disoriented and wonder, "how did I get here?"

There is good stuff on the internet. Cool stuff. Inspiring stuff. Helpful stuff. The internet is like fire, like a hammer, like any tool. It can be a danger, a weapon, or a spreading cancer OR it can be necessary, life-giving, something that heals. It all depends on how you use it. And like the fire under my gas burner, I now choose very deliberately how I engage with the internet. It is something that I run, it does not run me. I do this because how I engage with it is how my kids will engage with it. And I want them to be savvy enough to avoid viruses and all the lost potential and damage they bring.

I try very hard to foster online contact that will blossom into real human connection, I send a nice email complimenting or encouraging a friend, I try to find cool educational stuff, enlightening ideas, inspiration. I try to create my own stuff like that to share. I fact-check myself, the news, I dig up and read the source documents for things that I'm really interested in, do a 20-minute deep dive into one newstory and who I can donate to, to help solve the problem. I buy school supplies on Amazon. Also toilet paper. Plan our upcoming roadtrip.

And then I get off.

I log on with a check list and log off because I have an exit strategy.

There is so much cool stuff out there on the interwebs and so much cool stuff happening right in front of my face all the time. I want to engage in the amazing, life-giving bits: connection with family, learning a new skill, finding inspiration. I want to guard myself against the contaminated surfaces, wash my hands as carefully as a pediatrician does at the height of flu.

I do not want to go viral.