Breaking CultureCultureViral Sensations
black virality, black magic, same thing
September 4, 2019
First things first: it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Blackness in the digital age is now synonymous with virality because at its essence, the Internet, is a means to tell stories — and since our arrival on this continent, Black people have been superior storytellers.
In this viral/influencer era, some people have become distressed because the market for artists seems to be dwindling. It has become too easy to make a profit, and the entry to play the game has been reduced to a wi-fi connection. We live in a world where the tragic and the miraculous can manifest in one instant — and now, so can the viral.
Quiet a few artists have found themselves threatened by the viral. For me, however, virality has never caused me to feel differently about my own journey. Perhaps because the sound of a dial-up connection was a part of my upbringing just as much as Teletubbies and Power Rangers, I feel especially knowledgeable about what the Internet can and can’t do. Virality is one thing. Magic is another. Numbers are numbers, but magic is magic; and there’s nothing on Earth that can validate or invalidate real magic when you feel it. This is a feeling that virality can never achieve. The Internet and social media are just other canvases.
Understanding this, it makes sense that Black people have owned the cool culture that’s formed on the Internet in the same fashion we’ve dominated culture globally, pre-Internet. It is our prowess for storytelling and evolution that attracts the eyes, not a wi-fi connection.
When Black people go viral, I imagine the Internet blushes and fills up with gratitude. because we — people from the same stock as both Maya Angelou and Chaka Khan, Prince and Alaine Locke, Gil Scott-Heron and Missy Elliott — gifted this empty space of content with something that can’t simply be downloaded, uploaded, or even hacked: our souls. And the souls of Black folks are filled with sharp political critiques that take cable news hosts’ breath away, brilliant humor, and amazing talent in the arts. Even the spectacular brutality our flesh and minds are subjected to, have managed to find virality.
I believe virality is a choice for Black folks, not something that can be conjured in marketing and advertising meetings. It is a poor translation of our very real magic. It confirms what I think we all know on some levels as Black folks, that our magic is also our survival and the same space that indoctrinates white supremacist mass shooters and hacks the social media accounts of CEOs to torment us, can be the footstool for our creativity and divinity.
Yes, we go viral. Yes, we are magic. No, this is not news, but it is good to remember that the algorithm has surrendered to our rhythm.
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