Viral Videos: Comedy, Embarrassment, & Pain

Ah yes. I remember when I saw this video for the first time. The ping of my phone, a notification on its screen with the fateful message from a friend that changed my life forever. Without knowing what to expect, I tapped on the URL. All it took was a mere 9 seconds before I was deceased. R.I.P me.

Not once did I ever stop, in that 9 seconds, and realise that I was an absolute monster. Death was inevitable for people like me. It was not until later that I realised that the poor guy in the video probably didn’t find the situation as funny as I, and the many thousands of people who also watched the video, found it.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, someone had gone and recorded his absolute failure and uploaded it on the internet for everyone to see. Everyone. He probably left that day behind thinking ‘Well at least nobody saw that’. Talk about rubbing salt into the wound.

You’re probably thinking that this can’t get any worse, right? (Probably not but just roll with it). Surprise surprise, it does get worse. Someone went and took the video of the poor guy and edited it into a Star Wars scene. Yep. We’ve been officially blessed with a guy falling on ice for 9 seconds while trying to fight Darth Maul.

Viral videos are a core part of social media. They either make you weep or laugh. The ones that make you laugh are the ones that tend to gather a large amount of views. It’s natural. We tend to lean towards things that make us feel happy, not sad. Billig highlights that ‘the embarrassment of others is often a matter of laughter and enjoyment’. Which is of course very true. Especially in the case of the video above. The viral videos we tend to enjoy the most are the ones where we see other people get embarrassed or have a kind of not too extreme pain inflicted on them. Their misery is our humour.

Aristotle claims that comedy does not involve pain. In our day and age, it is nothing but pain. Take a look at You’ve Been Framed. The whole of this TV show functions off the basis of videos being sent in of people falling over or having some kind of ridiculous pain inflicted on them. This is the epitome of humour for us (and I don’t regret that to be frankly honest).

We share viral videos because of this very reason. It makes us laugh. We also share these videos because we have some kind of social motivation. Whether it is shared passion, conversation starting, or self-expression: we all like a bit of social credibility. This is when technology and its communication platforms become destructive and violent in a very subtle and highly unnoticeable kind of way.

We often forget the people at the heart of these videos when we share them and laugh at them. These are real people and they also feel, just like us. They are suffering and may not find the situation they’re in, in the videos captured against their own will, funny at all. When videos like the man falling for 9 seconds on ice while shovelling snow goes viral, the embarrassment and pain inflicted on the person at the core of it is immense. If we were in the same position, would we be laughing? No one likes to get laughed at because something unexpectedly happens to them. After all, it is out of our control.

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