This Is What Makes Something 'Go Viral,' According To Science

by Rosey Baker

I have to admit something: I don't understand why the "Cash Me Outside" girl is so funny.

I even watched the entire "Dr. Phil" episode, and I'm still at a loss as to why people cared about this girl in the first place.

Have you ever tried to crack the code for why something goes viral?

In an age when we're overrun by digital media, how do our brains pick out those few lucky gems that make it to the interwebs hall of fame?

Well, scientists figured out these viral stories actually aren't so "lucky" after all.

In a University of Pennsylvania study, researchers had 80 participants read the headlines and abstracts of 80 health articles from the New York Times, and then they were told to rate whether or not they would read and share each article.

Researches scanned the brain activity of the participants while they went through the articles, and with this information, they were able to determine what makes something "shareable" as well as the likelihood of an article going viral.

The study focused on analyzing two areas of the brains: the region associated with self-related thinking and the region associated with mentalizing (imagining what others might think).

While rating the shareability of each article, it was discovered that the participants thought both about themselves as well as others.

One lead researcher Elisa Baek told Science Daily,

When you're thinking about what to read yourself and about what to share, both are inherently social, and when you're thinking socially, you're often thinking about yourself and your relationships to others. Your self-concept and understanding of the social world are intertwined.

Essentially, an article's shareability is determined by how much it says about the reader and/or how it could help the reader's friends, whether that's through making them laugh or assisting them in solving a problem.

Second lead researcher Christin Scholz explained,

In practice, if you craft a message in a way that makes the reader understand how it's going to make them look positive, or how it could enhance a relationship, then we predict it would increase the likelihood of sharing that message.

Continuing with the "Cash Me Outside" example, most of us shared that video of Danielle Bregoli in order to either make ourselves "look good" or to make our friends laugh.

So, if you want something to go viral, your creation just needs to be a solid combination of self-reflection and social connection.

Then, your chances of becoming internet famous will soar.

Reach for the stars, kids.

Citations: How your brain makes articles go viral (Science Daily)