It’s been an eventful few weeks since I last posted.
First in my big news, I wrote an article for Buzzfeed called 27 Embarrassing Things That Can Happen When Substitute Teaching that went viral. I got the idea from my admittedly rough experiences with subbing, and then thought to myself, just think how much worse it could have been! I started working on it at about ten or eleven on April 18, sat up all night finishing it, and submitted it to Buzzfeed at about 5 in the morning on April 19.
Just in case you’re not familiar with how writing for Buzzfeed works (I certainly wasn’t), you sign up to be a member of something called Buzzfeed Community. Once your first piece gets approved by an editor, you get to the first level of something called Cat Power. You can then continue to submit things which then get posted to Buzzfeed’s Community section, under the Just Launched tab. Everyone with Cat Power gets put on the Just Launched section, but there’s no guarantee your article will really get seen.
When I woke up in the afternoon of that day, I had an email from Buzzfeed that morning saying that my post was getting a lot of interest, and I should watch and see if it got promoted to the front page of the Community section, instead of just the Just Launched section. After I read that, I opened up my next, more recent email that said an editor had really liked my post, and so it had been promoted to the front page of the Community.
I was crazy excited, so I went to my article to look at how many views I had. And then, to my utter shock, I read that I had nearly 8,000 views. EIGHT THOUSAND.
Guys, the most looks my blog has ever gotten in one day is 373.
I couldn’t even wrap my mind around the fact that almost 8,000 people had read something I had wrote. I floated about in a haze all afternoon, hardly able to believe it. As far as I was concerned, 8,000 views was viral for me.
At around 9pm, my parents and I decided to go eat dinner at the restaurant where my sister works. When we were leaving, my post had 12,000 views–I didn’t even know how to handle that.
And then, just before we left, I got an email saying that my post had been promoted to the actual front page of Buzzfeed, the one that EVERYBODY sees.
My mind just went blank. I didn’t know what to think or what that even meant. I couldn’t conceive of this fact, that my post was actually going crazy.
At the restaurant, I was telling my parents what had been going on. You have to be on a laptop to see the number of views on your post, so I didn’t know what my front page promotion had meant, but I figured I was probably getting more views.
My dad, who had never used the Buzzfeed app on his phone ever before, opened it to see what Buzzfeed was like. Then he said to me, “Sara, isn’t this your article?”
I took his phone from him and looked–and I discovered that my post was the very first article on Buzzfeed.
THE. VERY. FIRST. POST.
My mom opened her app, and it was the same on hers. I opened it on my phone, and found that it really was true, not a fluke. Not very long later, I got a text from my dear friends Skye and Lauren, both freaking out because they saw my article on the front page of Buzzfeed. Skye asked me how many views I’d had now, and I told her I couldn’t tell from my phone. She got on her laptop and checked for me— 38,695 views.
Thirty. Eight. Thousand. Views.
In the hour that I had been at the restaurant since my post had been promoted, 26,000 people had read my article, over double the amount that had read it before that. As we ate dinner, I just couldn’t stop smiling. I was euphoric, in a word. I just sat there with this stupid grin on my face. I couldn’t believe what was happening.
And then, people happened. I hadn’t even really thought to look in the comments sections, because half the time I forget that Buzzfeed articles even have a comments section. I was only reminded of the fact when Skye texted me telling me there was a hateful comment, and that she wanted to say something back.
Immediately, I felt a little uncomfortable. What could someone possibly say bad about the post I’d written? I went and started reading the comments, and quickly began to understand.
Unprofessional? I had never been accused of being unprofessional in my life. In fact, I’ve ALWAYS been a goodie two-shoes. I love rules, and I love following them. It made me feel good to do my best and to do the right thing.
I couldn’t understand this– didn’t they get that this was a joke? It was a humorous list on Buzzfeed–maybe ten of these things happened to me in reality. And I’d said it right there in my title–these were embarrassing things that COULD happen when subbing. Not that these all happened to me in one day.
And another thing–some of the things on my list included showing up a little late, or getting a kid’s name wrong, or making a reference that they didn’t get. And you guys are telling me that these things NEVER happened to you? Not once, ever, in all the time you’ve been doing this?
Because, I’m sorry, you’re lying. EVERY teacher, substitute or not, has mispronounced a kid’s name at some point.
But I could feel myself getting worked up, and I realized I needed to calm down. It was two people who had left negative comments, I just had to accept that they had completely missed the point and move on. Skye texted me shortly after to tell me that I had 46,819 views. I was immediately distracted by the fact that 8,100 people had read my article within a ten minute frame. I didn’t even know how to take that.
If you ever have something go viral on the internet, you’re going to learn the lesson that I did. As the hours went by, more and more people started saying awful things on my post. A girl called me a piece of smut. A piece of smut, guys. I’ve never been called smut before in my life. How did this girl who had never met me and knew not a single thing about me feel that she had the right to pass judgement on me??
One girl commented and literally said, “This post is irrelevant.” What??? What does that even mean? Irrelevant to what??
After about thirty comments of that nature (some from people who were going back and commenting again, like they were just so offended by my very existence that they felt they had to say something about it twice) I decided it would be best if I stopped looking at the comments.
The lesson I learned is this– people can be incredibly obtuse. My sister told me that someone said that they were really angry because they clicked on my link thinking that it was going to be something useful for teachers, and it was just my trashy list. Really? You thought that a list on Buzzfeed was going to offer you serious advice? There are always going to be people in a world who just don’t understand when something is a joke, regardless of how obvious it is, and these are always the people who are going to comment on your writing.
I feel the experience was best summed up by one of the comments. Someone said something along the lines that I made teachers look bad, and I was a horrible example for students, who are the future of our world, obviously, and that I should be ashamed and not allowed to sub. It just seemed ironic to me that they were so concerned about me setting a bad example for students, and yet they were the one commenting spiteful hate on the internet. That’s certainly not the kind of example I would want my child seeing from their teacher.
That evening around 12:45, I received an email from Buzzfeed saying that I had passed the 100,000 viewers mark.
It helped put things in perspective a little bit for me. Yes, I had about 80 or 90 mostly rude comments on my post, but that was such a minute fraction of people compared to the 100,000 that had read it. I had to believe that most of those people–including the Buzzfeed editors who had promoted it–had gotten the joke and laughed along at the picture I was painting. Buzzfeed even tweeted my list out on their official Buzzfeed account.
Apparently Twitter got my joke a lot more than actual Buzzfeed did, because every single retweet or tweet about my post I saw was positive–it went a long way towards making me feel a little bit better. I had numerous people tweet me and tell me that these exact things had happened to them.
The next day I received like twenty emails from Buzzfeed, most telling me I had won different awards (none of which I understood, as this was literally the third post I’d made for Buzzfeed and I didn’t really get what was going on or what it meant). I got emails telling me my post went viral on Facebook, and that it went viral on Twitter, and that it went viral on Buzzfeed itself. The higher the views got on my post, the more unreal the whole thing seemed to me.
Yes, it was incredibly amazing and mind-blowing that this many people had read something I had written. But after a point, it really didn’t mean much. I got an email saying that I was one of Buzzfeed’s Top Ten Users–but I couldn’t even figure out what that meant, or if it was even significant. As wonderful as it was to have my post go viral on Buzzfeed, it didn’t really affect my life that much–aside from teaching me that people can be very mean behind the safety of a keyboard. This has always been a lesson I knew existed but I had never really experienced the effects of. People on my blogs have been unfailingly kind to me, and for that I am eternally grateful.
My post, which is pretty much in retirement now, sits at 319,113 views. To me, that’s an astronomical number, and an enormous achievement. I can say to people, yep, I was featured on Buzzfeed’s front page, and I had 319K views. But aside from the cool factor, it didn’t really do anything to change my life. It’s not like I suddenly got to become a paid writer for Buzzfeed.
I eventually moved down the list, and then got taken off the front page, and then faded away altogether. That’s generally the thing with going viral–as fast as it happens, it’s over. I think I ended with about 150 comments, most of which I’m assuming are bad, but I’ve decided it’s not worth it to look. Because when it comes down to it, it doesn’t really matter what those people said about it. I know that I’m a good substitute teacher, who has never cussed before in front of a student ever, and who has never slept through a class she was supposed to substitute for, or really done any of the more offensive things on my exaggerated for humor list. I’m not a piece of smut, thank you very much.
So thus was my experience with going viral.
For my second bit of big news, well, remember how I said that going viral didn’t really do anything for me or change my life in any way?
Well, I lied. After some of the furor had already began dying down a few days after my post went crazy, I got on my official Facebook writer page (which I beg you to pleeease go like if you haven’t already, you can follow this link or just look on the side of this blog where I have connected the page to this one and all you have to do is click the little like button!). To my astonishment, I saw that I had a message from somebody–I didn’t even know you could get messages on your official writer Facebook page.
Even more to my shock, the message was from this really nice guy named Scott, an editor for the Music section of a British website called WhatCulture.com. He told me how he’d saw my post on Buzzfeed and the amazing number of views it was getting. And then he asked me if I was interested in becoming a paid writer for their website.
I’ll admit it, Readers. I was pretty sure it had to be a scam. It seemed too good to be true– someone actually wanted to pay me to write funny lists, something I do for free on this blog and on Buzzfeed, too. But the more I read and looked into WhatCulture, the more I became convinced it was a legitimate site.
And one that wanted to PAY ME TO WRITE.
I began emailing Scott, telling him immediately that I was interested and figuring out how things would work. Now, anybody can sign up to write for WhatCulture.com (including you, and if you do sign up to write for them, please mention my name, it helps me out!), and the way it works is you earn 40 pence for every 1,000 views your article gets, and you get paid at the end of the month. But since someone contacted me and asked me to write, I don’t have to go by that system.
Scott is my official editor, so basically my boss, and when I get an idea for an article I get his approval; or he can suggest an article idea to me and we can tweak it until we’re both happy with it. Then, I write it and submit it for review when I’m done. Scott looks through and edits it, and then once the post goes live on the site, I know I will get a certain, set amount–regardless of whether one or one million people look at it.
It’s not a full time job, of course, but I’m getting paid a very fair amount to do what I love. And there isn’t really a limit on the number of articles I can write. As long as Scott approves them, I can write as many as I want. This is real experience, something that people can go and look at on an official, proper website and see.
My first piece, 9 Underrated Kid’s Movies You Didn’t Realise Were Awesome (British spelling of realize is my editor’s work haha), was just published on May 2nd, and it already has almost 20,000 views. It also has ten or eleven comments. Now, those numbers are not as lofty as my Buzzfeed article, but you know what? Every single one of those comments is kind or helpful or just friendly discussion. Oh, and it includes one of my favorite comments I’ve ever received:
Oh, brandon. You flatter me… Please keep it up.
And so, I come to the whole point of this long, slightly crazy post. This whole experience has taught me a number of important things about being a writer, for example:
1. Some people are going to say awful things about your writing.
2. When you choose to write for public consumption, you better accept that people are going to hate your work.
3. Sometimes, making it big is not a pleasant experience.
4. Sometimes, out of an unpleasant experience comes something really wonderful.
Basically, if you’re a writer, you just have to keep writing and putting yourself out there, regardless of what anyone thinks of you. After all, you never know who might be reading, and what kind of opportunities might come your way.
Speaking of–Brandon, if you’re reading this, hit me up, son.