In a Pandemic, We Realize the Dark Meaning of ‘Going Viral’


One of my readers, Connie, commented on the connection between COVID-19 and the phrase ‘going viral.’ Everyone should keep the comparison in mind.

Going viral remains the primary goal for the social media generation. No matter what type of content they produce or how many people are in their circles, they all understand that concept.

But many younger folk demonstrated last month they don’t understand where the phrase came from. Some packed onto beaches despite warnings against large gatherings. They behaved flippantly about any dangers. They said they wanted to party, pandemic or not.

Going viral means rapidly spreading.

The Urban Dictionary defines it this way:

An image, video, or link that spreads rapidly through a population by being frequently shared with a number of individuals has ‘gone viral’.

Young people surely understand that definition. The phrase is based, of course, on viruses and how quickly some of them spread.

That shouldn’t take anyone a long time to figure out.

One of my readers, Connie, left this comment the other day about the phrase:

It confounds me how young people, who know all about “going viral,” don’t really understand the concept of how a virus spreads exponentially. Although all of the PSAs about washing hands and maintaining social distancing are important, I’ve been wondering, throughout this pandemic, why someone has not put out a PSA that uses social media’s “going viral” to show how Covid-19 has the same effect of exponentiation. Sometimes, you have to disguise the math in order to get through to young people! 

I agree with her.

At this point, I don’t think we should have to “disguise the math.” It ought to be clear. People should get it by now.

But they clearly don’t. Some are even trying to start petitions to end “Stay at Home” orders so people can go right back to behavior that will spread it faster. The reason, they say, is that this is America, and in America, we should be able to do whatever we want.

Even if it kills others, they do not (conveniently enough) add.

Maybe it’s beyond time we disguised some math here.

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.