Waiting for Superman: The Beauty of Virality

One day in October 2012, I happened across this YouTube video with a top-down view of PSY’s concert in Seoul. Over 80,000 people were in attendance, with the crowd spanning entire city blocks. Every member of the audience was singing along in unison with PSY who was on stage addressing the crowd as if he were a superhero who had just delivered their fair city from evil by swooping down in black suit pants and baby blue cape, I mean, blazer jacket.

Nonetheless, to this day, I have never been able to watch the video of said concert from beginning to end due to an inability to come to grips with it emotionally. This is why.

Amidst the Harlem Shake craze of 2013, famous YouTube film director, Freddie Wong, released a video in which he attacks a man about to perform a rendition of the Harlem Shake, ending with a screen saying, “Friends don’t let friends make Harlem Shake videos.” Whether this video expressed Mr. Wong’s true feeling towards the extreme virality of the trend or was simply his creative take on the Harlem Shake itself, it made me think about the real annoyance I have seen towards the trend in other social media.

Perhaps it is my personal preference, but I always wondered what makes some people so annoyed and angry over a trend that becomes very popular very quickly. Some pointed out that each Harlem Shake video was not indeed the “real” Harlem Shake dance move. Others simply expressed disdain over people trying to bank on something popular for the sake of achieving virality.

Last October, some friends of mine and I got together on a semi-weekly basis to learn the Gangnam Style dance then perform flash mobs throughout San Francisco on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Many onlookers stopped to watch, took videos that are now on YouTube, even honked their horns as they drove by. Street performers stationed at our chosen venues offered to step aside for us (one even told us the $10 we offered him for a few minutes of his time wasn’t necessary). To be honest, I was feeling quite under the weather that day (I was coming down with what amounted to be two colds and a flu) but I felt energized and refreshed because I was dancing. I was sweating. I was back to my days of exercising regularly and when dancing was a part of my life.

At that moment, I thought this must be the best viral video that happened to the world. It got everyone dancing. It got everyone to get up and move. It appeared on Ubisoft’s Just Dance 4 and Harmonix’s Dance Central 3 where players downloaded the DLC and danced along (myself included, I have 5 stars on that song), sweating, exercising, bringing movement back to our sedentary lifestyles. Of course, its benefits lie beyond physical fitness. That flash mob group I danced with was asked to perform for a man who would then propose to his girlfriend while we danced for her.

It’s obvious that said individual is not the only person who associates Gangnam Style or any motion of virality with love, even peace. At the height of the Harlem Shake’s popularity, Egyptians and Tunisians recorded their own renditions of the Harlem Shake as forms of peaceful protest against their governments. In this interview with CNN, two Egyptian protesters explain that the Harlem Shake is their tool of “protest in a fun manner” and that, “instead of chanting and getting beaten, we’d have fun, laugh, and then leave normally.”

If virality is indeed the new universal language and is proven by political protesters to stop violence, can it bring peace? Can a single viral trend bring us to a common understanding? Can one person dancing be what puts aside sentiments of hate, dissent, and intolerance?

It’s still a stretch. PSY and the Australian YouTube celebrities known as TheSunnyCoastSkate and DizastaMusic who started the Harlem Shake video trend have yet to stop all wars and conflicts ravaging the world today. But virality’s abilities are now known to stretch beyond just mobilizing people to get up and move and make something fun. Perhaps it can bring peace and understanding to people who embrace it and at least gives a tiny clue in finding what can unite us as human beings. For me, and for some of the 80,000 attendees at PSY’s Seoul concert, it was a glimpse of a group of like and unlike minded people singing, dancing, and thinking as one.

This is why I have yet to watch the video from beginning to end…without needing to pause at certain moments to recover from the impact felt from a simple song and dance. This is why I don’t understand why I should stop my friends from making Harlem Shake videos. This is why I feel overwhelmed when I see something as beautiful as a group of over 80,000 strangers rallying around one song, one dance, one person, one idea, one love, for one thing.

This is why I give thanks for every global viral trend. I give thanks for bringing us together. I give thanks for delivering us not from evil but for delivering us to harmony.

Four minutes and thirteen seconds. Maybe even as little as thirty-one seconds might be enough to save the world. If everyone saw viral trends this way, perhaps we have found our Superman.

Reposted on Frisky Mongoose

Photos from Business Insider and The Verge

Featured image from Reuters