I hate the term “viral.” And I had avoided using it.
Then May happened.
Specifically, May 21st when I published “My Husband is Not My Soul Mate” and people started sharing it. And sharing it. And sharing it. It broke my little Facebook-share counter at the bottom of the post, apparently that thing can’t count higher than 10,000. I was hearing from friends across the country that their friends were sharing it, Chris went into businesses for work and people were recognizing him and referring to him as “the soul mate husband,” I went with my family to an minor league baseball game and the people seated next to us were talking about it while they watched the game. That post was everywhere. I was breaking servers, hosting companies were dropping me or wanting to charge me ridiculous prices because I was taking up too much bandwidth, my website kept going down because too many people were trying to view it. People were emailing me upset that they couldn’t find my post and demanding I email it to them. I even had some marriage advice requests. Things got weird. At last count–and I haven’t looked at that post or the stats since June because it was taking up too much of my life–it had been viewed 1.4 million times. It is still being viewed hundreds of times a day, even now in mid-August.
I don’t say those things to brag or to share how awesome I am. I believe strongly that going viral was a God thing and not a Mary thing. Truthfully, if it was up to me, I would have picked another post for all the exposure. But like so many things in life, nobody asked my opinion. In the midst of the chaos (because it really did become chaos on a couple different levels), I learned some truths about myself, my online presence, and about other people that make up this online world. And finally, three months later, I’m ready to talk about it. It’s taken this long because I was so sick of that post by the end of June that I would die a little inside if someone wanted to bring it up. But I’ve since recovered. Here’s what I learned:
Luck has a lot to do with it.
There is no magic formula for a post to hit the big time. Like I said, I believe God had a hand in it, but even if I didn’t, there still isn’t a formula to follow for lots of page views. The exact moment when Facebook shares, retweets on Twitter, pins on Pinterest, and plus ones on Google+ all align is elusive and impossible to have control over. Sometimes people like what you write and sometimes people don’t. Just keep writing.
Some people are bad readers.
I teach seventh grade. I know what a horrible written response to a text looks like. I can recognize a student that doesn’t have good comprehension skills a few sentences in. The same goes for some of the comments I received on that post. There were a couple comments so off-topic that I feel they might be accidents. I know all the statistics for adult readers and the average adult reading level, I know that newspapers are written at lower levels because most of us can’t handle the Wall Street Journal. I was reminded of this multiple times as I read comments on the post. And I didn’t even use big words! but the main idea was lost on a lot of people.
Everyone has advice!
I cannot tell you how many people commented or emailed me about the picture of Ellie and Harper standing on kitchen chairs while pretending to wash dishes. Moms and grandmas everywhere were concerned about the way I had the chairs facing and the risk of falling. I think a few people would have notified CPS if they knew where I lived.
People are mean.
Really mean, actually. I was called an idiot or moron or worse countless times. I have pretty thick skin from teaching middle schoolers, those kids don’t have filters and I’ve been called a bitch and other choice words many times before. So I was somewhat prepared for the name-calling and the rude comments. In the beginning when most of the comments were coming from friends, family, or readers that liked it, I was replying back since that’s the polite thing to do when someone leaves you a comment. But as it spread, things got out of hand and while I was didn’t delete any comment (even the completely inappropriate and cruel ones), I stopped engaging in conversations about the post. If someone emailed me, I would respond, but I just left the comments alone and stopped reading them. People were saying my husband must be gay if that’s how I feel about him, people trashed my marriage because they obviously knew me from this one post, people said I was a horrible mother for teaching my kids about God, readers even started fighting about my use of prepositions at the end of some sentences. One guy commented on the Huffington Post article that he was surprised my husband was still around after looking at my giant nose for so many years. Which was especially funny since he was commenting on a stock photo that Huffington Post added to the post that was of an older lady in her mid-fifties. He was insulting a random model instead of me.
People are nice.
Ninety percent of the interactions were encouraging and respectful. I was especially impressed with people that didn’t agree with me, but told me about it in a grown-up way. I engaged in some email discussions about my beliefs and had some really good conversations with non-believers. I also enjoyed seeing other readers stand up for me when I wasn’t doing it for myself. Nothing makes you feel the love more than random strangers fighting the good fight with and for you. There was more good than bad and that made weathering the nasty stuff a lot easier.
The general public doesn’t understand copyright or plagiarism.
I was SHOCKED at the number of bloggers that thought they could just copy and paste my whole post on to their website. Like jaw-droppingly shocked. If you didn’t write it and you don’t have permission to reprint or repost it, you’re not allowed to. It’s common sense…or so I thought. I finally gave up sending emails to bloggers asking them to take down my writing because it was a losing battle that I couldn’t keep up with. But through this post I was introduced to a whole other side of blogging: the side where people just find stuff they like on the internet and then copy and paste it on their blog. Can we stop doing that please?
It opens doors, good and bad ones.
I was contacted by a popular Australian news outlet that wanted to repost my article. I was honored and gave them permission, then the night before it was to post, they emailed asking if they could take out the ending (the parts about God) because their editors didn’t want to offend any readers. That sucked big time and I was completely bummed that they asked. I’m not going to lie and say it didn’t hurt just a little to tell them they couldn’t edit it out. They ended up deciding not to post it because of that and even though I knew I had done the right thing, it still stung a little.
Did you hear I write for the Huffington Post now? That’s a big door that opened.
I mentioned this above, but this post suddenly made me a relationship expert to some. I got weird love questions, mostly from guys, about how to save their marriages or could I talk to their wife about being their soul mate? (Again, reading comprehension is hard.)
I’m freelancing up a storm right now and get to see my first byline in print when Inspire Weddings and Marriage comes out with their fall issue in October. You know I’m going to be at Barnes and Noble buying up alllll those copies.
Looking back, I can see God’s hand in this experience so much. I can see what he was doing before it happened to prepare me, I can see what he did as things took off, and I can still see him working as things are starting to get back to normal. I learned so many lessons from this ride, more than I’d learned in the years of blogging leading up to May. And if he can use my words for his glory, I’d be up for another one…in a couple months. Or years.