Before the term ‘going viral’ became part of people’s conversations –being randomly applied to any nugget of information from tweet or some silly meme that skimmed across the Web- we had another term for it: Buzz. PR companies did not create viral campaigns, they created Buzz (or ‘buzzy’) campaigns.
Emmanuel Rosen, one of my favorite authors, addressed this well in The Anatomy of Buzz. This was pre-Twitter, and Pre-Facebook, remember. (I interviewed him for my book, Chat Republic.) He foresaw that some people could hijack your buzz. Information and disinformation make reservations on the same train.
Fast-forward to today. The Coronavirus is a serious topic because we are in uncharted territory. But like a stone skipping across multiple bodies of water, important news, gossip, and vital information races across our landscape blended with conspiracy theories about the virus. Unfortunately these conspiratory theories are going viral, so to speak. I won’t even bother to name what the major conspiracy is, but (it has already been debunked by scientists) only say this: It is poorly concealed character assassination by conspiracy theorists with political exes to grind. The kind who complain about fake news, while spreading more of the same.
In the age of information overload, and disinformation, our brains are being rewired to disbelieve everything at face value. It’s healthy to be skeptical, sure. But at this time let’s be skeptical about all things that ‘go viral.”