Anyone studying social media should have a solid understanding of memes, or how ideas spread over networks. This list of “The 100 Most Iconic Internet Videos” is useful that it gives the general context for each of these viral videos, and gives some insight into how they became so popular (hundreds of millions of views in some cases).
For instance, I have often wondered why Avril Lavigne’s Girlfriend music video was at the top of the Youtube all-time viewed list (but really not THAT interested in doing any research on it). It turns out, the video had a lot of technical help.
Pop-punk songstress Avril Lavigne’s anthem to girlfriend-hating and man-stealing holds the top spot on YouTube for the most viewed video of all time, but it didn’t get there truly organically. Avril’s die-hard fans at AvrilBandAids.com were the first to successfully game YouTube view counts in a massive way by using a complex scheme to cheat the system by opening browsers that refreshed every 15 seconds to repeatedly play the video. They then used the publicity from their cheating scheme to push the clip over the top virally.
Recognizing the power of networks and nodes and understanding why certain messages become more wide-spread than others (whether by merit, messenger, or manipulation) are important media literacy skills.