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Imagine Relying On A Video Going Viral To Save Your Child’s Life

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No one knows exactly what it takes to make a video go viral; if they did, there would be no average posts, no unread bits of genius, no amazing jokes flying under the radar. Working in the digital world, we often try to put our finger on exactly what it is that makes people connect to a story so much that they share it with their friends, and those friends share it with their friends, and those friends share it with their friends — until soon everyone you know is talking about a honey badger or the rent being too damn high. I think about it because I like pageview bonuses and the idea that masses of people are reading something I wrote. But I can’t imagine what it would be like to have the life of my child riding on my ability to create content that people would share.

That’s basically what is happening to the parents of Eliza O’Neill.  The South Carolina family has been trying for over a year to raise the money to save their four-year-old daughter’s life. Eliza was diagnosed last July with Sanfilippo Syndrome, and her body and mind will begin deteriorating in months without a cure. Her family is trying to raise more than two million dollars to fund a clinical trial for the cure. The O’Neills are lucky — the have friends, contacts and resources to make their dream a reality. They have already raised 1.1 million. But they have 700,000 more to go.

Being in the business of trying to get clicks on the Internet (which anyone who writes for the Internet is, make no mistake), there are often talks about what it takes to make a video go “viral.” Clearly there must be a formula, or sites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy would not be the media powerhouses they are. I believe there is a formula, I’m just not exactly sure what it is. In my three years writing online, I have only written one viral post that had several million views. It was about cakes shaped like vaginas. I’d like to think it was because I told some good jokes, but in actuality it probably gained traction because people don’t often get to pull up pictures of vaginas at work and have a collective laugh.

Pretty much everyone in the online publishing industry has at one time or another thought they had the makings of a viral post — only to have it fall short of their expectations. Can you imagine what it would be like to be a parent counting on the kindness of the internet to save your daughter’s life? I can’t. Which is why I’m writing about Eliza again.

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