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The science of going viral

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Why did some things go viral this year?

As the year comes to a close, we look back and realise that 2016 will be immortalised for the most ridiculous things that went viral.

From Kanye West's two song concert, to Harambe's death (which now has it's own Wikipedia page), viral moments showed us that if you're a great rapper, you can insult the biggest stars in Hollywood, and that if you're an animal that is unjustly killed, the world will make you into their god.

But not all the things that spread like wildfire are so easily understood. Here's our attempt at explaining why certain things went viral this year.

1. They were oddly satisfying

We all know the world is intrigued by things that are oddly satisfying. But who would have known that a few artists on Instagram who just wanted to show how paints were being mixed would have such a global impact even before they started painting?


HOW COULD WATCHING 30 SECONDS OF SOMEONE SCRAPING PAINT BE SO RELAXING?

It could be the smooth movement of the spatula as it glides and mixes the paint in a few smooth strokes, or the gorgeous end product reflecting the light in such a beautiful way you can't help but get shivers.

On the less artistic side, we also get a strange sense of satisfaction when viewing videos from Doctor Sandra Lee, better known as Doctor Pimple Popper, leaving us on the edge until the pimple or cyst is flowing with pus and blood.

The human race is definitely a weird one.

2. They gave us virtual friends

Mystic Messenger took the world by storm for a couple of months when it was first released in July this year, plunging youths into a frenzy of waking up at 3am, and waiting for a fictional character to call them. Depending on your answers during the chats, the story lines and characters change.

The seemingly perfect boys draw us into the game
YOU COULD HAVE COMPELLING CONVERSATIONS WITH THE
CHARACTERS, ALMOST AS IF THEY WERE REAL FRIENDS.

Players of the chat-based, female-focused game aim to get their "dream man" by the eleventh day in the game. The ending depends on their responses to the characters in the game.

The game, which has close to one million downloads worldwide, has been such a hit in Singapore that a Mystic Messenger Café event was orgainised just last month, with over 100 die-hard fans coming to see their virtual husbands.

Why it went viral? For many, the characters were perfect, charming and had just the right amount of ego, cheekiness and emotional depth to keep users vying for their love; even going to the extent of answering virtual in-app calls from the characters in the dead of the night to get their ideal ending.

3. They restored our #faithinhumanity

Lots of things happened in 2016, many of which crushed our hope in the goodness of people.

However, there were glimpses of light, like when the story of a small provision shop in Hougang that made the news when it was found that the store was running on a trust system with customers, instead of having a storekeeper.

//
THE SHOP OWNER MANAGED TO SAVE $20,000 IN MANPOWER COSTS
BY BUILDING HIS OWN A SELF-SERVICE CHECKOUT.
PHOTO CREDIT: JASON QUAH

Those who came into the shop are greeted by the automated cash register, invented to collect money and give change when needed.

Singaporean hearts soared. Finally, we have visible proof that there was still good in the world, and that even strangers could be trusted! #faithinhumanityrestored

4. They were…plain confusing

Sometimes however, something goes viral, and we don't have a clue why.

Our fascination with the weird and entertaining often leads us to doing challenges or finding videos that are just so confusing that we need to share it just to figure out if anyone else can figure out what's going on.

This year we saw the Daaaaaaaamn Daniel meme go viral, where Josh, a Californian high school student filmed his friend and his white vans, and the world lost their minds.

DAAAAAMN DANIEL
ALL TOGETHER NOW: "DAAAAMN DANIEL!"
PHOTO CREDIT: MASHABLE

The trend went so big, it boosted sneaker sales by 30 per cent , and was even featured on The Ellen Show.

We're not very sure why this went viral. Was it the fact that Daniel is completely clueless? Or maybe the fact that we're drawn to how Josh seems so fascinated by his friend's white shoes.

Back at home, we also saw an Unbelievable trend by Mediacorp, where a Chinese karaoke-sounding song allowed us to ask our crush to be "the metal cable to my cable car". It's another viral video with popularity that we're too confused to be able to explain.

Will 2017 bring us even more confusing trends? We'll have to see, but hopefully, they'll be more meaningful ones.

Let us know what went viral in 2016 in the comments below!