Every now and then a new Internet craze will crowd our desktops. We will try to ignore it like banner ads, but still we end up being sucked in by the gravitational forces of memes and viral trends like neknomination, Harlem Shake, and flash mobs.
Although we might not (want to) participate in those sometimes disdainful, sometimes obnoxious and usually downright embarrassing acts, our culture is influenced greatly. It takes permanent snapshot of the times we are living in, and allows us to revisit it occasionally. These fads come and go like flu season, it seizes a few lives, ruin some reputations and paves way for the next phenomenon. The thing is, nobody ever starts a trend with a bad intention—sure they get out of hand—but it’s often rooted in good old fun or visions of stardom: to peer pressure or to find the 15 minutes of fame (shame).
With a public uproar against neknomination, there is no doubt that the online drinking game’s sustaining power is petering out, just like the way Harlem Shake, flash mobs, planking, and Kony 2012 eventually faded from our memory. They do a little bit of good and a little bit of damage, and remind us that nothing on the Internet should ever be taken lightly. It is a community we are all living in; the drunks, the slacktivist, the trolls, and the brilliant thought leaders, sadly there are more of the formers than there are of the latter.
So how can we, the well-minded individuals, find the higher ground, avoid embarrassment and save face (and our Facebook account)?
First off, following in other’s footsteps in never a good way to gain acceptance. You show everyone that you are a victim to peer pressure, that you are easily swayed and that you don’t have much creativity within yourself to come up with anything new. So understand your purpose for following others initiatives. Are you trying to fulfill some social obligation or are you trying to get more traction onto your site by harnessing something popular?
If the answer leads you to feel optimistic about the project, go ahead create it, but then hold it, allow the initial excitement to simmer down. Watch it critically.
Then think about your online persona; how do you socialize with your network? Do you speak your mind when you see something you disagree with or do you just let it pass? This will effect how your followers will react to your posting. You might have a target audience in mind, but your unsavory video or picture might turn the majority off. Share it privately; get feedback, not approval. It might be worth the laugh, but it might not.
Finally, consider your real-life entity, how do you as a person interact with other real life people? List the top ten people you interact with daily and consider how they would feel about your YouTube escapade. Your reputation will potentially affect them, so it’s only respectful to keep them in mind. Suddenly, what you have made might not be as golden as you initially thought.
Self-awareness will keep on solid ground, even on the Internet. Trends are established all the time, but few have sustaining power. What is more powerful than trend is a personality that is what you want to foster. Nobody cares what you do, but how you do it.
However, if you do still want your 15 minutes of fame, and you want to ride the coat tails of a neknomination, Harlem Shake or flash mob—try the counter trend method; turn the self-indulgent act into a selfless act, like what many are doing for neknomination, daring other to be charitable, by showcasing their kind deeds on the Internet.
But what’s done is done, neknomination is now in the rear view mirror, but let’s learn from this momentous moment in the history of the Internet. Say to yourself: “When the next trend comes along, I’ll use the power for good, and not to show off my ability to drink, dance or make my broskies laugh. Amen.”