Going Viral: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

March 10, 2016

viral article

These last couple of weeks have certainly been interesting. If you are reading this, you likely already know that my blog post about my daughter (and her facial birthmark) has gone viral. The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox News, Inside Edition, US Weekly and People are just a few of the outlets, globally, that have published stories on it. It has been a crazy whirlwind of emotions. I never anticipated that this story would reach so many. Many bloggers dream of “going viral” to attract more readers to their blog. They wonder what it’s like and glamorize it in their minds. My blogger friends have been asking about the ins and outs of it all. I’m going to break down what it’s been like for me and my particular story, beginning with the negative.


Cons:

A LOT of people completely miss your point.

It is abundantly clear that they missed your point when they leave comments or send messages. This is the most frustrating part. My post was 100% about normalizing differences in appearances and being careful about your thoughts and statements regarding people with an unusual quality. If you read the comments around the internet, though, you might think I wrote the post to debate personal health decisions, seek medical advice, or attempt formally educate people on the biology of hemangiomas. Some people wasted time writing out exactly how they would medically treat Charlie and why we are making poor decisions. So, while they were busy being a Facebook doctor and looking for ways to judge us, the lesson went directly over their head. The medical specifics of her hemangioma and our course of action are irrelevant, and actually have ZERO to do with my message.

You are now wide open for Internet Bullies/Judgies

(*Judgy -noun : The sanctimonious, passive aggressive version of a bully.*) –> I made that up.

As a writer, our publications are our babies. Sometimes we spend months cultivating a piece that we think appropriately conveys what we were feeling at the time. Then, when we have edited and re-edited, we click publish and bare our souls. Often times, we are writing about something personal such as our children or another important relationship. As a blogger in a niche like mine (Motherhood/Lifestyle), I can normally assume that my audience (generally) knows my voice and shares my viewpoint on most things and that is why they follow me. After you go viral, it’s a free for all. All of a sudden there is a TON of traffic and no trend with who your audience is anymore. Which means, while you are viral, there is no more tribe mentality. There is an invitation to every cruel person on the internet to come to your site and rip you to shreds.

It is impossible to keep up with the correspondence.

Physically. Impossible. Believe me, I have tried. I have a personal Facebook inbox, a blog Facebook inbox, my blog email address, Instagram direct messaging, Twitter direct messaging and comment forums on ALL social media. I have received HUNDREDS of messages from people who can relate and want to tell me their story from all over the world in many different languages. This is absolutely positive (which I will get to), but there is no way I can respond to everyone, which is stressful for me. I WANT to engage with everyone and I just can’t. This doesn’t even include all the media outlets that are emailing me for photo credit info, interview requests, and story permission.

When you think it has died down, it hasn’t.

It ebbs and flows. I will think it is starting to fade away and I am not in the fish bowl anymore and then all of a sudden I get 200 Instagram followers in an hour. That’s actually my red flag that something has been posted somewhere. I am not sure how long it will be until it fizzles, but I can tell you it’s up and down until it does.

You have little to no control over people who write ABOUT your story.

The only people who have interviewed me were: ABC, The Huffington Post, NBC, CBS, People, and US Weekly. Any other website who published a piece about me wrote their own opinion. Sometimes, this is not great, primarily because of some of the “click-bait” titles that have circulated. Headlines like “Mom is Sick of People Staring at Her Baby” or “Angry Mom Shuts Down Prayers” are just bogus incentives to entice people to click. It irritates me because #1- it’s extremely misleading and a far cry from what my message is, and #2- it invites a ton of spammy hate messages from people who ONLY read the headline and looked at photos. Not cool.

Alas, here is the silver lining. I saved these for last because they truly are incredible, at least in my case. I am constantly reminding myself that the positive side of this is totally worth the annoyances I mentioned above.

Pros:

Raised awareness for your message, whatever it is.

I knew that there wasn’t a ton of awareness about my type of story on the internet, because I never found much through internet searches. I could tell from stares, that people didn’t even know what they were looking at. So, one big plus of going viral has been the ability to reach a HUGE amount of people with some basic information. Regardless of whether they think Charlie is a pitiful soul, or a beautiful human being- they have read the article, and they can’t “un-know” what they read. Boom. More people are just a little more knowledgeable about something.

Thought/action provoking conversation.

In that same vein, my story has sparked a conversation. The same hateful people who are criticizing me online are exactly the people that needed to hear my message! How they react to me is something I can’t control, but, they care enough to discuss it and THAT is important. Maybe they are reacting with judgment and anger because it sparked regret in them. Maybe they are projecting their own insecurities about the definition of beauty. Either way, that part isn’t my concern. The conversation is on the table now. Kids are asking their parents about it. People are giving something a second thought.

Community building.

This has been the most beautiful thing to watch unfold. I could tear up thinking about it. I have received hundreds emails from people from ages 14-80. They are either the parent of someone who had a large hemangioma (or other malformation), or someone who has one themselves. Not ONE negative response has come from someone who has actually been there. Every five minutes I have a new message encouraging me to keep doing what I am doing and assuring me that Charlie is in good hands with me as her mother. I have loved watched people connect with each other in the comment section of my blog. It leaves me speechless. I can’t put into words how much every single story from a reader has inspired me.

Exposure.

My blog isn’t only about Charlie. It isn’t even only about my kids! I am a lifestyle blogger that happens to be a mom. I write about all of my interests and share a lot of my photography. I try to keep everything authentic, honest, and funny. That is what my “voice” is. An obvious benefit to going viral is that lots of moms who might appreciate my blog for any number of reasons, found me just a little bit faster. I am hoping that I will retain new readers because they stumbled upon my blog through reading that sample of my writing. My blog views are astronomical right now, but I will keep you posted on how much they drop when life goes back to normal!

Collaboration opportunities.

I have been contacted by other bloggers and organizations who believe what I believe. I have been invited to write for other publications and guest post for different blogs. Virility has given me a huge platform to be noticed by like minded people that I can potentially build relationships with. The internet is huge, and it can be difficult to connect with people. It’s a blessing, as a writer, to have been put out there and open for community building opportunities.Ā  No doubt.


There you have it. Going viral is a blessing and a curse. As with anything, stay focused on the positive and remember that if you changed one mind, helped one person, or shed any light at ALL into the vile world we live in, it’s worth it.

 

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20 Comments

  • Reply Jessica March 10, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    I’m glad you wrote this! Like I said, I think a lot of us “hope” to go viral for all the positive reasons you mentioned, but until it happens, you don’t really know what is in store as far as the cons go. This made me rethink things.. and I don’t know if I’m ready to go viral yet (if I ever do). I just started blogging and exposing my soul..and the backlash would probably wither me!! I am glad that you got your story out there though, it’s beautiful and I am so honored to know you and call you a blogger friend! xoxo

    • Reply katiemcrenshaw March 11, 2016 at 12:12 am

      GAH thank you Jessica!! All the support from everyone is priceless to me. I am so lucky to have all of my blogger sisters.

  • Reply Vivianna March 11, 2016 at 2:12 am

    I can’t even imagine what it must be like but I won’t lie… I do sort of glamourize going viral in my thoughts. I’m so glad you are so open to sharing the truth behind the experience. I was a reader before & I will remain regardless of how internet famous you become because well, YOUR REAL and still wipe bums šŸ˜‰

    • Reply katiemcrenshaw March 11, 2016 at 1:03 pm

      This made me laugh! Thank you so much, friend!

  • Reply Sarah @SUGARMAPLEnotes March 11, 2016 at 3:09 am

    Well written and great insight on going viral! Congrats to you and your baby girl!

    • Reply katiemcrenshaw March 11, 2016 at 1:02 pm

      Thank you Sarah!!

  • Reply Abbie March 11, 2016 at 4:35 am

    Well said!! You dealt with this issue directly and truthfully and I don’t envy you trying to navigate the exposure. You are doing so with grace and composure and are a role model for how to continually bring the focus back to the important issues. Amazing!!

    • Reply katiemcrenshaw March 11, 2016 at 1:02 pm

      Thank you, friend!

  • Reply Ken Mullis March 11, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    That was great Katie!

  • Reply Spencer Burley March 11, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    I’m so happy you wrote this! Especially after talking with you, it’s funny because I was following you and then one day say you on my news feed and was like wait. I follow her, she talks to me and is so sweet. You’re a beautiful mama and I’m so proud of you for being real and honest!

    • Reply katiemcrenshaw March 13, 2016 at 11:51 am

      YOU are so sweet. Thank you for the support, my online community is my rock!

  • Reply The Home Loving Wife March 12, 2016 at 12:30 am

    Oh mama – you’re amazing. Keep on keepin’ on, because the world needs more if what you’ve got going on!! Thanks for sharing a bit of your world with us – it makes a difference!! Hugs to you and Baby C

    • Reply katiemcrenshaw March 13, 2016 at 11:50 am

      Thank you sweet girl!

  • Reply Jenny B March 12, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    I love that you shared this story. Charlie and Grayson are gorgeous! When I look at your beautiful baby, I see myself. I had the same benign hemangioma tumor on my eye as a baby. It covered half my eye. Within a few years it completely drained and was just extra skin in my eye. I was teased and bullied until I had that skin removed going into my freshman year of high school. They didn’t want to do any surgery until my face was almost adult size. My cousin also had one just below her eye.

    Every time I see a baby with a strawberry, I always make a point to speak with the parents to share my own story, hence my reaching out to you today! Thank you again for being so brave to share your story. I can promise you that you’ve helped so many. God Bless!

  • Reply Cassie March 18, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    I have a baby with a large Port Wine Stain. It reaches from the back of her neck to her chest and all the way down her arm to the top of her finger! I read the articles written on your post and felt like they didn’t pull the important information out of your blog! I went to your defense several times! As the mother of a child with a large birth mark I completely understand where you are coming from! At our home we do not mention it or point it out, it’s part of her and we don’t want her to feel insecure by constantly talking about it. When out in public I answer question after question about it! One day someone had the nerve to ask if I had a doctor look at my babies “arm”. I simply stated No. Why did I choose to say No, because my other answer would have been a lot more rude! I have not had it looked at by one doctor but by multiple doctors! Thank you for shedding light on our beautiful babies! PS I feel like we are connected with our baby fashions as well!

    • Reply katiemcrenshaw March 20, 2016 at 1:24 pm

      Aww, thank you so much!!

  • Reply Tara April 8, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    I was delightfully surprised to see a post on social media about a mother sharing her story and her child’s story with a hemangioma. I too had one as a child. It was on my nose, started out as a small “strawberry” and grew to cover almost all of my eye at one point. At the age of 15, all of the tumor was removed. It took 15 years for a surgeon to be found that would even attemp to remove and reconstruct my nose.
    You’re doing an amazing thing, opening eyes and minds to something that very little is known about. There is a blessing in that. Thank you for sharing your story and your beautiful girl with us in the process. I wish you and your family the best! Your daughter and I share the same special ” Kiss From God ” and I’m sure she will carry it with grace and beauty!

    • Reply katiemcrenshaw April 11, 2016 at 12:03 pm

      Thank you so much!

  • Reply Kris April 24, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    Your story popped up on Facebook and I decided to read it. Charlie is beautiful. I was born with a large nevus birthmark on my face. My mom told me stories of people making rude comments about me being an ugly baby. My parents made the decision to have it removed. Only a small section could be removed at a time. At one point to much was removed and it caused my nose to look crooked. I underwent years of surgeries. Whether or not my parents made the right decision is a mute point. I do know that either way I would of grown up being teased and had my moments of weakness and tears. Adults and kids a like could be very cruel. Those however where the only moments I felt different. I had friends and overall I was a happy child. I had a supportive family who reassured me of my inner and outer beauty. They reminded me that those who make comments and are cruel are most likely those that feel ugly themselves and are unhappy in life. That gave me pity for them, not for myself. While I may be left with a scar across my face and a crooked nose. Strength is what I gained through all of it. I have been married 20+ years and have two beautiful boys. My birthmark has been just a teny tiny bit of who I am. It will only be a very small part of who Charlie is. Those who are important to me and friends that have been in my life forever see past the facial imperfections and love me for who I am. She will have the same thing! God bless!

  • Reply Social Appetite – A Reflection of Social Media – Student Blog on E-Marketing January 2, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    […] because there is no way of ever fully getting it back – this works the same way for reviews. Going viralĀ can be challengingĀ and even restaurants with the best reputation can be hurt by a viral […]

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