Do you ever wonder what makes a video or story go viral? Even when it’s not racking up thousands of views, what is it about a particular item that has it appearing two or three times on your Facebook or Twitter feed?
One of these that held a lot of fascination for me recently was a TED talk video featuring artist Alexa Meade. It kept popping up and so I clicked on it and watched it. And then its appeal became clear.
Meade made a choice to Live Riveted to her passion and not the dream she’d been investing time in through high school and college. Funny, right? You’d expect that it would be a good thing to Live Riveted to a dream you’ve geared your schooling to, that path you’ve been planning for years.
“I’d always had this dream of going to Washington, D.C. and sitting at a desk and working in government,” Meade says in her TED talk.
But while studying political science at Vassar she became fascinated with shadow and light and painting. Instead of going to the nation’s capital after graduation she headed to her parents’ basement.
“[I was] making it my job to learn how to paint,” she says. “I had no idea where to begin.”
And yet she did begin. Through experimentation she began painting humans – that is, literally applying paint to people -- and capturing them in photos, the three-dimensional converted to two-dimensional.
It’s highly innovative and visionary, so why wouldn’t it go viral? But really I believe there’s something else that grabs people and spurs them to not just view her talk but pass it on. They are amazed because she switched tracks. Completely abandoned the political path and taught herself to paint in this revolutionary way. No art school. She was pulled strongly to something and she went with it. If there were doubts around practicality of one career vs. the other, she worked through them.
So many people are walking around feeling lost or out of sorts because they didn’t allow themselves to divert from the direct path they’d laid out in high school and college. Somebody talked them out of it or they talked themselves out of it.
“If you want to meet terrifying silence, tell the world you are going full-time as a poet,” David Whyte writes in Crossing the Unknown Sea. “Who would give me a word of encouragement if I did? It has never been easy to go full-time as a poet in any recorded portion of human history.”
And yet there are volumes of poetry. Somebody is paying heed to sustained creative impulse. Somebody is switching things up midstream or staying the course despite naysayers and obstacles. Somebody is saying “nah” to the family business that isn’t a fit or the work schedule that allows no time for play.
The ones who are trying to work up the courage for change love these kinds of stories. They read them. They watch them. They pass them on, breathless at another’s brave stance or bold move. It’s an expressed wish and in many cases they don’t even know it.
So the video goes viral, wish upon wish upon wish put out in the universe, gaining energy.
Some of them, pray tell, may even come true.