Was “Friday” actually good for society?

We’ve all heard it. We’ve all groaned at it. And yet, we’ve all embraced it as a hallmark of pop culture. That’s right, it’s “Friday.”

“Friday” is pretty much indisputably just nonsense. The quality of the music, lyrics, cinematography, and “talent” is so low you almost think it’s a parody. And yet, at the time of Kevin Allocca’s TED talk “Why videos go viral,” in November of 2011, it had 200 million views. As YouTube’s Trend Manager, Kevin analyzes what drives the popularization of videos. He boils it down to three key factors: tastemakers, participation, and unexpectedness. The Unexpectedness factor is a distinguishing one in the vast world of YouTube videos because only those that are truly unique and unexpected can stand out. This one’s pretty straight-forward: if the video didn’t have anything interesting or different about it, it would just never get on anyone’s radar. Tastemakers has to do with someone well-known getting the video on the population’s radar through social media or some sort of broadcast, and he cites Jimmy Kimmel and Tosh.0 as examples. The masses perceive these people as icons of pop culture and humor, and thus are likely to trust their “plug.” Participation involves the idea that people find something relatable, adaptable, or creatively inspirational about the video, to the point where they attempt to recreate, build upon, or parody it. For example, parody songs for the remaining days of the week were created with seven days of “Friday”‘s release. Viral videos encourage the masses to take the video and make it their own. Even if those adaptations are stupid, that creative process engages the viewers and embeds the video even deeper into pop culture. Below are some of these adaptations.

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This participative aspect was most interesting to me. I think so much of mass consumption these days is so mindless, so the idea of a video going viral because it resonates with and engages consumers, even in a silly way, is pretty valuable in my opinion. It gives us a much more active role in shaping pop culture and encourages creativity. On the other hand, from the examples presented in the TED talk at least, it seems like the videos we choose to respond to are often pretty stupid. “Friday” is an obvious example, but there’s also a man named “Yosemitebear” freaking out about a double rainbow for 3 and a half minutes, and Nyan cat on loops of various (and obscene) amounts of time. (Side note: I would definitely recommend giving this video a watch, it’s not that long and it’s really entertaining.) Is it actually beneficial that we’re engaging with these videos, which are so lacking in substance but that, for whatever reason, spark viewer interest and creativity? And if the products of that creativity are also idiotic and trivial, was it even worth it? What are your thoughts?

Finally, there were several elements of Kevin’s presentation that I think made it really effective. His use of humor and multimedia, although probably a natural style to employ given that the topic was YouTube videos, really made the talk engaging and entertaining to the audience. I would love to incorporate these into more of my presentations.


13 responses to “Was “Friday” actually good for society?

  1. This is a very interesting topic and fun to see how we can relate to these things. I’m wondering if this concept can somehow be linked to stakeholderism? Is there anything that can be done to spread the ideology of stakeholdersim in a catchy way? (Maybe this is a stretch)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think there are connections to be made between this concept and stakeholderism, but I see this similarity most in the creative process. The precursor to this process is obviously different between YouTube videos and stakeholderism, but in both cases the process creates value in some way. In the case of stakeholderism, a manager is confronted with a problem and develops a creative solution in response that creates value for all its stakeholders. In YouTube’s case, a viewer’s creative adaptation that takes the original video and makes it meaningful to him/her creates personal, emotional value, especially if they broadcast the product of their creativity and can derive value from social acceptance and support. Possibly a stretch, but something to consider. Do you agree, or see other connections we haven’t touched on?


    • Not a stretch at all. Stout’s book, though not as catchy as a viral video, is certainly written to try to “spread ideas.”

      Here is the CEO of Unilever, Harish Manwani, talking about purpose.

      1,000,000 views. Not bad, especially relative to the relevant audience…


  2. Is it actually beneficial that we’re engaging with these videos, which are so lacking in substance but that, for whatever reason, spark viewer interest and creativity? In answering your question I wouldn’t necessarily say beneficial, but I see nothing wrong with people engaging in such silly videos. When I spend hours on end in the library writing papers and studying for exams it is nice to have videos, like the ones you used, that I can watch as a short study break. They are idiotic but they give people a chance to let go and even if its only for 2-3 minutes, I can honestly say they make my day a little bit better.


  3. I tend to disagree that the spreading of these videos is contributing to society. Our generation knows more about youtube trends than about current events or politics. I know that I waste a large amount of time with such nonsense and I think that the varying social media trends will only increase in volume and keep us from being a productive and intellectually stimulated population.


  4. While I definitely see a benefit in that these videos are a way to relax and blow off steam, I do not think they add much to society. However, I do not think they will go away any time soon. Before the spread of these mindless videos on YouTube, Americas Funniest Home Videos occupied our time with funny clips of pointless happenings. Society has been addicted to mind-numbing forms of entertainment. Therefore, what if there was a way to make these videos count, though? If there was a little piece of relevant and intelligent information at the end of the video, almost like a commercial.Is this something that’s actually feasible or would these stimulating add-ins be ignored?


  5. There are a few things I want to talk about. First, when I read your title, I thought your blog post was going to discuss the concept of the day of the week called ‘Friday’ and whether that day is good for society. I was happy that I was wrong, because that argument would be much drier than the one you made in your post. Second, I think you did a great job incorporating technology and visuals in your post, as evidenced by the dreadful Rebecca Black performance, the Harry Potter meme, the twitter post, and Glee’s adaptation of “Friday.” These components enhanced your post.
    And finally, I think you ask a relevant question in whether engaging in these videos is beneficial. I cannot think of a dichotomous answer because these videos affect people on an individual level. A video that provides no stimulus for me may inspire another person to do great things. When I first watch Black’s “Friday” video, I felt like I had wasted 4 minutes of my life. But a young girl or boy watching it may be inspired to become a singer and performer. I tend to agree with a point that Kerry made in that if funny and typically substance-free videos began to present useful information in a way – perhaps satirically – maybe these videos would start being beneficial to society.


  6. Kevin’s ideas sound like they are rehashing a fair amount of Malcolm Gladwell’s, especially as captured in his book The Tipping POint.

    I think that he may be over-emphasizing the content of the videos that go viral. The way an idea moves through a big network, like the network of Youtube users, is called percolation. A video going viral may be as much a function of who pushes it and who she or he is linked to. For every god-awful Black video like “Friday” there maybe six others (Sunday, Monday,etc) that simply did not have the right people at the right time liking or promoting it. Whenever you look at “successes” there is a bias to look to its content and not compare it to all the comparable “things” that were less popular at the same time and were never noticed. For every successful Apple, there are forgotten but comparable tech companies like Banana, Lemon, Mango.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree that a video going viral is highly contingent on the “percolation” factor. I think Kevin gets at that a little with his first point about “tastemakers,” because these people have both an established reputation in pop culture and a huge network. Is this what you’re getting at, or something else? If that’s the case, I actually think he balanced his points well, because the unexpectedness factor dealt with the content of the video, the tastemaker factor dealt primarily with how a video spreads on such a grand scale once it is recognized, and the participation factor dealt with why these videos have staying power with each viewer.


  7. Beneficial? No.

    But I would not judge the importance of YouTube by Friday. I also would not judge the importance of newspapers by studying the content of want ads (highly read) or of the telephone by analyzing the content of all phone calls (there is a lot of silly shit discussed).

    Difference is we can all see the views of a viral video.

    Last point, I looked at YouTube and searched “Ferguson, MO”. Two videos of Mike Brown’s shooting had 2 million views between them. is that beneficial?


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