What happens when your family video goes viral

Guest post by Julie Gracilieri

Did anyone happen to see that video of the baby eating a Leisurely Lunch that just went viral? Well, maybe you didn’t… it didn’t go that viral. But it did get over 50,000 hits on YouTube last week — which is a pretty weird experience when you’re the parent of the one year old in the video.

My husband and I are fairly conservative when it comes to sharing information about our daughter online. My Facebook profile and photos are on total lock-down and you need a password to read my blog. Every once in a while when I do share a cute video of Lucy with friends and family I make sure that it’s unlisted on YouTube so you need the link to see it. So… can someone please tell me how in the world 50,000 people got access to a video of my baby eating macaroni and cheese?!

I woke up on Monday to find a ton of emails in my inbox from YouTube letting me know that people were commenting on my video “Leisurely Lunch.” What? The video had over 3,000 hits. Again, what?! I called my husband at work. “Uh, something is going on. The video you took of Lucy relaxing the other day is getting a lot of attention on YouTube. I don’t know where it’s coming from. Do you think somebody we shared it with put it on a blog or something? Didn’t you make that video unlisted when you uploaded it?” I asked him.

By the time he got home that night the video had over 11,000 hits and we had received emails from production assistants at The Today Show on NBC, ABC and E! asking for permission to feature our video on their shows. My husband and I couldn’t believe it! I mean, of course, we think Lucy is adorable but what the heck was happening?! It was so funny… and weird… and creepy and exciting!

We did a lot of damage control that night. I went through all the videos I’ve ever uploaded (ugh) and made sure the ones that revealed anything personal about us were made private or deleted. My husband did research on the people that requested permission to show the video on television and made sure they were legit. After discussing it at length, we decided to just roll with it. We even made a couple of Lucy’s funniest videos public. We figured, hey, they make us happy. Why not share the joy, right?

Over the next couple of days something strange happened happened to me and I couldn’t stop checking the number of hits. I wanted more! I wanted a million!!! Why? I have no idea.

By the next morning, the video had over 16,000 hits. By the end of the day it had 30,000 hits. Over the next couple of days something strange happened happened to me and I couldn’t stop checking the number of hits. I wanted more! I wanted a million!!! Why? I have no idea. It really made no difference in our lives whatsoever. I kept expecting the parents at my daughter’s play group to recognize her, “Hey, your daughter looks just like the little girl I saw in a video today eating a leisurely lunch!” Didn’t happen.

And then, just as suddenly as it all started, the hype died down. We got an email back from The Today Show letting us know that they decided to go with another video. Damn. That would have been cool. They probably chose that video of the guy proposing to his girlfriend in a movie trailer. (I have to admit — it was a good one.) And that was it. Lucy’s fifteen minutes of fame were over.

The lesson I’ve learned from all this is how quickly we can lose control over what we put on the web — we were lucky. In general, the comments people made about the video were harmless. One person said Lucy looked fat and lazy. Delete! I can imagine that it could have been a lot worse and if it had been, I would have been extremely upset that all of this happened without my “consent.”

I got an email from a girl who used to intern where I worked a couple of years ago and she owned up to being the one who originally submitted the video to The Daily What after seeing it on Facebook. From what I can tell, a bunch of different sites picked it up from there. She apologized, which was sweet, but in the end it was my own fault for posting the video in the first place.

Comments on What happens when your family video goes viral

  1. I saw this video yesterday on msn, thank you for sharing this perspective. Its always interesting to stop and think about the people behind the videos we see online.

    • We just heard about the MSN thing late last night. They didn’t actually ask us for permission to show the video, which is interesting since they’re so big and should know better.

  2. This stuff can definitely get out of control. my husband is directing a new musical right now – and without his knowledge the producers picked a song (one he’s been wanting to cut), restaged it with different blocking in a local news studio with the actors in terrible wigs and costumes, and recorded it. Then it got picked up by The Soup. Super-embarrassing, and potentially career-damaging for my husband.

  3. I gave birth to my daughter during the Chicago blizzard this year. My sister-in-law contacted a bunch of media outlets and we were featured on a few different news channels – my husband actually gave a phone interview while we were still recovering in the delivery room. I think I was still in shock through the whole process. It felt wierd putting ourselves out there during and already hugely stressful and personal moment in our lives. And it definately upped the crazy in a pretty crazed new mama. In the end, I look at it as a free birth annoucement and a great story to tell little V but, I’m not sure I would agree to it again.

  4. I’m glad the experience was largely positive, but what disturbs me a bit is that a friend/aquaintance on facebook thought it was okay to submit someone else’s video to a site. I have my facebook page on “friends only” for just about everything, so I’d hate to think that a “friend” would have such poor judgement that might harm my family.

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