Viral Content Takes Over Students’ Lives


Students turn to BuzzFeed when they need a quick fix of viral media

Viral content started with the good old email chain. That’s right – we were part of the social media revolution when we were forwarding emails for good luck back in fifth grade. Social media still hasn’t been able to shake the “retweet this picture of a pencil or you’ll fail all your classes” trend; the power of one photo or tweet still manages to captivate us.

The Adams community is familiar with the wildfire spread of popular tweets both casual and serious. From teen heartthrob sensation “Alex from Target” to the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, students and faculty do not see much positivity in the ever-growing world of information.

Take Alex from Target. A girl shopping at the popular department store snapped a picture of her slightly attractive clerk, and since then, the 16-year-old has appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and has even arranged meet-and-greet sessions with fans. He gets all this attention for just doing his job and looking pretty.

“It’s stupid when people like Alex from Target become famous for no reason,” said junior Jack Walsh.

This strange hysteria would not have been possible without the genius innovation of Jonah Peretti, creator of the viral content hub BuzzFeed. Peretti cultivated a modern system of communication and turned it into a highly-visited site flooded with popular culture and current events.

Recently, Peretti was the guest speaker at the Detroit AdCraft Club, a club that brings together the Detroit advertising and marketing communities.  His success story began with a project for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab when he designed a Nike sneaker. The popular sportswear company denied his request to make a shoe with the word “SWEATSHOP” plastered on the side, and after much dispute, the issue was left alone.

With the help of email forwards, however, Peretti told his friends. His friends told their friends. Eventually, over 1,000 people knew about Peretti’s controversial design. This story was the fastest spreading viral content of its time. Little did Peretti know, his innovation would cause media to spread exponentially faster in the years to come.

On the other side of the spectrum, students created an uproar on Twitter after a grand jury decided that Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson would not be sent to trial for the death of African American teen Michael Brown. Information, testimonies, and even court evidence was twisted to tailor to each viewpoint. In light of the event, junior Selena Tiberio identifies the viral story as poisonous territory.

“Media is dangerous,” said Tiberio, “and it doesn’t portray stories accurately.”

According to a New York Times article, the lines continue to blur when deciding whether a given news article is, in fact, true, or just another viral scam to turn heads. 

“The problem is not in how fast it spreads,” said social science teacher Mr. Jeff Hall, “the problem is how fast it spreads without being able to fact-check itself along the way.”