How I Garnered 500,000 Views in 48 Hours
“Never give up and just live the life man! Saw this video and figured you could all need some push”
You know those telling moments before a storm when a raindrop suddenly smacks your windshield, or your window, or your head, and you know it’s about to pour?
Something like that happened three days ago for me, but it had nothing to do with the weather.
It all started, my friends, with a tweet.
This one, to be exact:
I was tagged. I didn’t know who “badassbonito” was. All I knew was that a big blue checkmark was lying amongst the contents of the tweet, and that, well,
That was the first raindrop.
The First Bump
I clicked through to the above video, and began watching my scruffy self talk about the road trip I embarked on last year.
IT’S UP! I thought. TODAY IS THE DAY?!
I really wish the people over at NowThis would’ve told me, but then again getting surprised by an amazing online video (that you’re starring in) is kind of like doing drugs.
It had 2,000 views already, despite only being online for 50 minutes.
That number alone floored me.
I didn’t know what to do. I was in schock. I wasn’t prepared. I couldn’t believe it had that many views. I couldn’t believe 30 people shared it already. What the hell was I supposed to do???
I yelled in to my Mom and gave her the news. It’s hard to explain to your parents the idiosyncrasies of going viral, but I told her that this was kind of a big deal.
Like — probably never going to happen again in my life big deal.
She shared it on her feed and tagged 15 people. Gosh, I love her.
Over the next six hours my video would climb in views from 2,000 to 12,000. I swear I had about 20 of my friends share the video.
They acted like it was some sort of an honor to know me, and that I had suddenly graduated to being some sort of a celebrity.
Even people who didn’t know me shared the video saying they knew me. That was weird. Maybe I don’t remember them? I doubt it.
Up and up it went. My sister texted me “Wow, Tom, Wow, wow, wow, what’s happening?!”
My Father didn’t really give a rats ass to be honest. I don’t think he understood. Neither did my brother. My brother has posted maybe 1 and a half Instagram pictures to his profile in his entire life.
Unbeknownst to my Dad, and to give him some sort of a reference point, this day was like John and George coming back from the dead to make another Beatles album with Paul and Ringo.
The Second Bump
Right when I thought the storm stopped, the skies got even darker.
At 6 I checked the numbers yet again. The views hovered around 13,000. That’s good, I thought, and then I sat down to play Call of Duty.
I literally played one game of Modern Warfare, checked my phone again, and saw that the views jumped to 48,000 in ten minutes.
By 7 it got 98,000. By the time I went to bed we were at 150,000.
The next couple days were a whirlwind. I had a massive outpouring of people friend requesting me, following me on Instagram, and messaging me to talk about my trip and find out how they could do the same.
I was overwhelmed. Since NowThis didn’t include a link to my websites or social media profiles, I didn’t exactly receive a large spike to anything in that regard, but I still got a couple hundred Facebook likes on a few of my pages.
It’s hard for me to take a step back and tell you what I learned from going viral, but I guess I’ll take a crack at it now.
You Will Be Scrutinized
Here’s a couple screenshots of some particularly nasty comments I received.
I screenshot all of these comments because I’m now using them for motivation, but I also wanted to show you how nasty people can be on the internet.
It’s a shitstorm.
They decided to judge me based off of a 3-minute video. I’ll leave the white-privelege discussion for another day (because I do think I definitely had certain advantages that other people didn’t growing up), but I’ll just let you know for now that these comments did hurt me.
I’ll leave it at that.
One thing my friend Sam Struan always tells me:
You can’t have lovers without haters.
Being scrutinized is the flip side of the viral coin. Sure, it’s nice to be “internet famous” for a moment, but people are going to judge you. It doesn’t matter if you’re saving baby squirrels from the clutches of death — people are going to find a way to make you the bad guy.
I’m not saying I’m Kim Kardashian, but 500,000 people WERE all up in my business about two or three days ago.
Before you judge people on the internet, know that there’s a human being behind the pixels.
You’ll Inspire So Many In Ways You Couldn’t Imagine
I must’ve gotten about 50 messages from people this weekend over Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook alone. Most of them opened with “This might be a little weird, but..”
No, it’s not weird! I love it! What’s so weird about introducing yourself digitally anyway? This isn’t 2006 anymore.
Yeah, I had a lot of people scrutinizing and assuming I had a silver spoon shoved down my mouth my entire life, but that was maybe 10 percent of the response.
The other 90 percent were people who got inspired. People who shared. People who messaged ME, and liked MY PAGE.
I told my parents that I don’t care if I piss off 30,000 people, if I inspire just one person, that’s worth it. I’ll put myself on that pedistool anyday to get mocked if that happens.
In fact, an hour ago I received a text from someone I went to high school with. She said she quit her job today to pursue a career in music full time. All because of my video.
Words can’t describe how much that meant to me.
She’ll make it, too. She sang the national anthem at Camden Yards (where the Baltimore Orioles play), so it’s going to happen.
It’ll Give You Unshakeable Confidence
I’ve always wondered if I have the secret sauce to making it online as a writer. In fact, I wrote about it the day before I went viral (so ironic).
But after the events of this weekend, and after seeing the flat-out ridiculous numbers climb up and up towards a million views, I started getting a confidence in myself I’ve never felt before.
I went from doubting my entire blogging existence Friday night to believing without a shadow of a doubt that I would make it someday. You know why?
Because more than 2,000 people shared the story of a kid they knew nothing about. Because something I wrote made the editors at NowThis believe it was a story worth telling. Because I actually have legitimate haters.
Because I did something that very few people have done before on the internet.
Because now the conversation has changed from “He’s a good writer,” to “I can’t believe I know him.”
I don’t say this to be arrogant. I’m saying this to inspire.
If I, a bumbling idiot from Bel Air, MD who can barely speak coherent words has done this — you can, too.
Going viral was such an amazing experience. The fallout has likely not even settled yet as a write this, but for now I’ll write my immediate reactions and let you in on what it felt like.
I guess this was the weekend I became an internet celebrity. All that’s left now is for me to become a meme.
Actually, yeah, let’s scratch that idea.