For some people, when a video goes viral thanks to social networking sites, it can be the best thing that can possibly happen. Look at Simon's Cat, an animated cartoon shared throughout social networking sites to the extent that it now clocks up millions of viewers. But what do you do if a video showing you at your worst goes viral?
We all do things which we wouldn't necessarily want on camera. Drunk dancing, singing in the shower, angry rants about various family members are all things you wouldn't want to see yourself doing in a grainy 300p resolution video on Youtube, for all the world to see. But even these wouldn't ruin your life if they went viral, unless you happened to be vilifying a dead aunt or something. The world would be bored after a week or so, and you'll have a great story to tell.
But if the world doesn't like what you're saying or doing, your life can suddenly become a long list of great big problems and worries. People who have discovered this range from a racist passenger on the tube, to 11-year-old Jessi Slaughter, whose only crime was to rant about how happy she was with her life via webcam, to Cher Lloyd, who had the audacity to have a successful music career. Last year, one woman was caught on CCTV throwing a cat into a wheelie bin, and found herself at the centre of an Internet hate campaign. No harm had come to the cat Lola, who had spent the entirety of the incident curled up and asleep. And the woman apologised, claiming that she had had an extremely bad day, and that her actions had been uncharacteristically course. This did nothing for the Internet hate campaign, though, and she received death threats.
The level of hatred often aimed at people caught on viral videos is usually way out of proportion with their original ‘crime', if indeed it is a crime. So is this a price we must pay for having free press, free media, and free social networking?