Gone Viral!

Weirdly, I have a viral video on IG. After an IG favorite person, Patricia Miguel Dias, had her account hacked and lost access, I posted a remix video. My video remixed her reel (video) from the VisitPortugal IG page with a series of handwritten calls to action. I put Johnnie Taylor’s “Hijackin’ Love” on top and published it. It sat in my reels for two weeks doing nothing.

Then, just about the time that Patricia got her account back, my video started to rack up likes and views. I noticed it get to 100 likes, a milestone for me, then it kept on going. My notifications filled up (you only get 100 at a time) every night as I was sleeping. By the start of this weekend, I had 13,180 plays and 988 likes; by now, Sunday morning, I’ve passed 2,000 likes and 15.830 plays.

As the beneficiary of the IG algorithm, my benevolent gaze surveys the territory of IG reels, a pretty wasteland of inattention. I now enjoy browsing around to other IG original posters (OPs) and see how many plays and likes their videos have garnered. Most of the bread videos and pottery videos I check on top out in the thousands of plays. There are OPs, like bakesmarterwithsmarter, who post three or four reels every week who have only once received over 10,000 plays.

I can state with assurance that my viral video has no reason to go viral. First, the call to action (CTA), “Help Patricia!” has been answered and resolved. So that’s a dead letter. There aren’t any hashtags that would bring audiences to this reel. Also a dead letter. The production values are terrible; I can barely read the text I wrote, and I’m the one who wrote it.

The song is amazing, however; Johnnie Taylor has the most complicated perspective on love that I’ve ever come across in a pop singer’s repertory. And not only does it have deep lyrics (none of which come across in the 15 second clip I’m using), but it’s a banger like most Stax singles of that era. And I’ve never heard it on IG. I won’t hear it anywhere else either, as my video is still the only use of the song on the platform.

This dynamic, I’m afraid, is something that we have to get used to. If everyone is graded on social credit determined algorithmically, it’s pretty likely that most people’s “success” is the result of pure luck or worse, the alignment of a slapdash product with algorithmic goals (show more faces, show more remixes, play more Stax singles). There might be a point to “using what I’ve learned” to create a reel product with the same qualities that also supports my own social credit goals, except for the fact that I don’t actually have any social credit goals.