Going Viral

Virus

Virus

Interesting how our language has changed.

Today going viral is a good thing.

But imagine 30 years ago when a strange virus struck gay men in cities like San Francisco. Going viral meant something frightening.

Now journalists and critics are taking a fresh look at viruses—as messages.

Advocates want their messages to go viral—to get the most reach possible. Viral in this sense refers to message-as-bug: a force that reaches—or infects—as many hosts as possible.

But what makes a message a candidate for spreading like a disease?

Recently the New York Times tackled the topic of viral messages.

Researchers in Pennsylvania discovered that information that arouses a reader spreads more quickly than dull information, according to the Times.

While that’s hardly a surprise, the researchers didn’t expect that emotion would affect a message’s journey.

In other words, messages that aroused the sender were most likely to be foisted off on others.

The researchers write that messages which “evoked high arousal emotions” were more viral, whether the information was positive or negative.

Sad messages were less likely to go viral.

The take-away implies that good old-fashioned excitement galvanizes our emotions—something PR flaks have known for ages.

We can take advice from the showman PT Barnum, who said, “Whatever you do, do it ardently.”

See the March 18 news story at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/19/science/good-news-spreads-faster-on-twitter-and-facebook.html?_r=0

Free virus wallpaper from http://wallpapers.free-review.net/12__Virus_-_infectious_agent.htm

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About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. She is enrolled with the Osage tribe.
This entry was posted in framing, journalism, Native Science, neuroscience, news bias, science, science communication, social media, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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