“HEARTWARMING MOMENT OF THE DAY”: GLOBAL SHARING OF VIRAL CONTENT ON FACEBOOK
Do you remember the earlier days of Facebook, when a group dedicated to a man, who wanted to collect 1 million likes so he could convert his house into a pirateship with the blessing of his girlfriend, went viral? And the girlfriend ended up having to (principally) yield to his wish because of the massive number of likes he got? This is one example of what one might term global “banal” content, that is viral content which cannot be described as breaking or political news in any way, but nevertheless include elements which for a fleeting moment encourages users to share it globally. This research project, the framework of which this paper seeks to describe, aims at understanding more closely Facebook user engagement with this form of shared content. The “viral content” which I will examine is closely related to the principles of“virality”, defined by Hahon and Hemsley as an “information flow process” during which many people spread the same item of information over a short period of time and beyond their own personal networks (Nahon and Hemsley 2013: 16). This “piece of information” is often a meme, an infectious and attractive cultural “idea” in the very broad sense. During the viral spread of the meme, it can be either copied without intervention or “repackaged” and altered by its sharers (cf. Shifman 2014). I understand the “pieces of information” analysed in this project as memes, vis a vis their apparently infectious (viral) nature, even if they are passed forward without alterations. Constine (2009) refers to this type of meme as as “discrete” memes, whereas the template meme type can be described as “symbiotic”.