Last week I saw a picture on imgur (since removed) that horrified me so much I decided to tell Twitter. I thought my tweet might get a couple of likes, maybe a retweet. As it turned out, my tweet actually made more than eight million media impressions over the course of a week. Mental.
If only nature would find a way to cover these oranges so we didn't need to waste so much plastic on them. pic.twitter.com/00YECaHB4D— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) March 3, 2016
People go viral on Twitter (and other channels) all the time. But it's usually celebrities who rack up the big numbers. On the off chance it is actually Joe Average it's usually individuals who are unfortunate enough to say something downright stupid (Justine Sacco anyone) or take a picture that comes back to haunt them (Breanna Mitchell).
Thankfully, I went viral for neither of these reasons.
Buzzfeed contacted me 1 day into #OrangeGate and asked, 'How does it feel to go viral?' 7 days later and hundreds of people have asked me the same question. People seem fascinated by the prospect of 'Going Viral' more than likely because secretly, everyone wants their 5minutes of fame and social media makes that feel like it could happen to anyone.
I'm here to tell you what it's like, so next time you post something hoping it reaches the masses you stop and think, 'Is this really worth it?'
Trust me. It's probably not.
1. Your phone breaks
For 7 days straight, my tweet got on average 38 interactions a minute. I was getting so many phone notifications that I couldn't even enter my password to turn them off.
Eventually my phone just gave up. Three times.
2. You become very visible
Suddenly the whole world is looking at your social media profiles. All of them. Nothing is sacred. Anything you have ever said or are about to say is being looked at by the world.
Someone found a tweet I ignorantly wrote in 2014 about a local election and they pulverised me. They must have searched for hours to find it. I'm just glad no-one found my photos from Ibiza'98 (yes, I've since deleted them out of pure fear so, stop looking yeah?)
3. You need to watch what you say next
Whatever you write from now on is no longer just simply going out into the ether to be seen by maybe 6 people. You now always need to think before you post because you have invited hundreds if not thousands of baying dogs to your social feed and they are waiting for you to throw them a bone that they can either eat or fight over.
4. You get talked about everywhere
Don't for a second think that 'no-one's really paying attention' to you. I had the most bizarre celebrities engage with my tweet and if celebrities can see it, anyone can. I didn't even tell my dad what had happened but he called me on day 3 and said simply, "Why is your face on the news?"
People will write whatever they want about you. And fact checking is no longer Journalism 101. I had articles that spelt my name wrong, said I lived in America, claimed I worked as an environmentalist and said I was a vegan. One even claimed I even worked for Whole Foods.
No one who writes about you will care about your truth, only their own; everything about my life became twisted to suit whatever angle their article was discussing. Leading me nicely to...
5. You will be told you said something you didn't
I wrote about a pre-peeled orange encased in plastic. Twitter somehow read that and turned me into a racist, a Donald Trump supporter, a sexist, an ageist and the most common (and maybe most upsetting) an ablest.
A website (that I refuse to link to) wrote about how I hate disabled people and that I was single-handily stopping them from ever eating oranges again. Oh, and that I was bringing scurvy back. I might reach out to Justin Timberlake and see how he feels about doing a duet with me.
This experience taught me that really, people don't care about the truth. People only really care about themselves - ironically that is what people said about me too so perhaps there is some truth in it. How meta.
6. You will experience a lot of hate
Within all of us, is the ability to be a Troll - social media exacerbates this. Hiding behind a screen believing you are totally untouchable does nothing for me personally but going viral will show you that people seem to find an extortionate amount of happiness in pulling apart total strangers. And sending dick-pics. Yeah, that happened.
I (against all advice) started calling out some of the Trolls which consequently shut a lot of them up. Many even deleted their tweets. Trolls get off being anonymous so once you take that away from them (and invariably other people start telling them they should be ashamed) they lose their power.
7. You will find a tiny bit of hope
For every one Troll there were fifty strangers waiting to stand up for me, send me a clapping emoji or take the pith (I must have heard that pun maybe a thousand times).
I can't count the number of people who reached out (publicly and privately) to tell me they admired me, thought I was funny, believed I'd done a good thing or just told me to grab a glass of wine and switch off Twitter for a while.
It was humbling and has shown me how important it sometimes is to tell someone you don't know that they are great when you can see they might be struggling.
8. You could do some good
Whole Foods actually pulled the product I had referenced.
@awlilnatty Definitely our mistake. These have been pulled. We hear you, and we will leave them in their natural packaging: the peel.— Whole Foods Market (@WholeFoods) March 3, 2016
One single tweet had the power to make one of the biggest supermarkets in the world waste a little bit less plastic.
Controversy aside, the unnecessary use of plastic was all I was ever commenting on. We need to do more for our planet and somehow my tweet became a tiny step in the right direction.