It usually takes a little longer for resolutions to fail, but here we are, six days into the new year, and any hopes we may have had for slightly less trivial viral ephemera are dashed. The culprit has come in the form of a puddle that's gone viral—a puddle about as shallow as our collective attention span online. The famous puddle—which is already on its face a hilariously depressing term to use—is located in Newcastle. For hours on Wednesday, tens of thousands of viewers signed on to Periscope to watch pedestrians try to navigate their way around it.
— Elliot Wagland (@elliotwagland) January 6, 2016
It's taken the media by storm, and, as of this writing, there are well over half-a-million likes on the live-streaming app. I didn't really understand the appeal of it yesterday afternoon, yet, it's now exploded even further around the world, with some 50,000-plus tweets about the topic.
— Twitter Data (@TwitterData) January 6, 2016
Because this is a Very Stupid Viral Story, you won't be surprised to hear that Drummond Central, the people who set up the periscope stream from a nearby office, are a "strategic marketing, creative, and digital agency." Although, as of now, they insist it wasn't a targeted marketing stunt for any product, just a bit of good fun.
But that's the thing, isn't it?
Everything is a marketing stunt at this point, and everything can be spun from Internet gold into actual currency. No doubt the firm, known for its work with football clubs, fashion, and food campaigns, is having one of its biggest days in the spotlight in quite some time.
Of course, like with any viral phenomenon, our reaction to the object at hand soon shifted into a meta commentary on the nature of Internet notoriety. The interactions with the puddle shifted gears into a predictable series of one-up stunts—punters riding inflatable rafts through the puddle and so on—with dozens of people rushing down to the scene of the happening to have their photo taken with a damn puddle.
It's not even that big of a puddle, mind you.
What the hell is going on here?
It sounds like a dystopian cautionary tale out of Black Mirror, a thinly-veiled and overly-obvious allegory about how our interaction with technology has hamstrung us from meaningful interactions with the world, and made us focus on the absurd. But it's even too heavy-handed for that. A puddle is a form of reflection after all. It's not the puddle we're really gawking at here, it's ourselves. We look like shit.