When We Went Viral

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In case you missed the news, Phil and I got married at the beginning of July. I’m so very, very chuffed to be his wife and we’ve been having a great time as married couple. (And OMFG *I* have a husband?! Me?!) I’ll probably write about the wedding another time because I’m here to talk about what happened next, and what happened next MIGHT SHOCK YOU! Well, it shocked us.

We got back from our wedding on a Tuesday and set about attacking the post-wedding chores, including a very last-minute GP appointment because my eyebrow went mad. LOOK AT MY POOR FACE.

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We spent Wednesday packing for our honeymoon, ready for an early morning flight the next day. As we were heading off on our holidays, I manually backed up my phone photos because I’m secretly a little old lady who doesn’t trust “the cloud”. I was saving down photos when I found this, which I’d apparently taken back in April. 

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I showed Phil and we realised, aww that’s nice, the date on that tweet was nearly three years ago, so I found the original tweet and quote tweeted it. (Actually, I asked Phil if he wanted to tweet it, but he couldn’t be bothered.) The retweets and favourites started rolling in, more than my average tweet would receive. We were surprised, but ok? It was a nice story. Shrug. We can’t be totally sure of the chain of events, but evidently it was seen by J.K. Rowling, who hit retweet.

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As you can imagine, THE SHIT HIT THE FAN and things started happening. We appeared as a Twitter Moment and began getting contacted by media outlets wanting to know more about “our story”. All kinds of places got in touch, newspapers, radio stations, viral news sites and women’s magazines.

While this is all happening, we’re packing for honeymoon and preparing to be out of the country for a week. I actually forgot to pack my camera in all the furore… Well, I say furore, but it was really just us pacing the kitchen, wondering what kind of mess we’d got ourselves into this time.

The first couple of articles appeared that evening. We were both a little anxious by this point, our main concern was that someone might write something nasty, tainting our wedding and honeymoon. From what we saw, The Mirror article was one of the first to appear, and we were relieved to see it was positive.

The next morning, we got our early flight. When we landed at the other end, our phones went off like a plague of angry wasps, a stack of news articles had appeared while we’d been in the air. In the car to our hotel we drafted and posted this on Twitter, which helped to stem the flow of journalists contacting us.

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Early on, we decided not to speak to any media unless we were presented with a mind-blowingly incredible opportunity. Like what if MADONNA wanted to interview us or something!? Sadly, Madonna did not get in touch.

Besides, we were on our honeymoon for goodness’ sake. We thought about keeping quiet that we were abroad for a week (HI, BURGLARS!) but the fact we were on honeymoon was the ideal excuse not to speak to anyone. Perhaps we’re a bit jaded from having worked in radio, tv, social media and PR ourselves, but the thought of being interviewed just wasn’t very appealing anyway.

We didn’t feel bad for avoiding journalists because they didn’t really need anything from us; we’d already tweeted a photo of us on our wedding day and the story really spoke for itself. One journalist kept emailing me about his looming deadline, apparently trying to guilt-trip me into replying. Soz, not my fucking problem mate.

I also posted a (quite cringe) message on Facebook to ask our friends not to speak to journalists if they were contacted, more for our own peace of mind than anything else. We made a special point of telling our parents not to accept friend requests from strangers, or to speak to journalists. Perhaps it seems like overkill, but we were both receiving (and ignoring) quite a few messages from journalists at that point.

Weirdly, one thing that really helped our privacy was a decision made before our wedding even happened; we asked our wedding guests to leave off posting photos of us on social media. This was actually my call – it’s a pet peeve when the first photo of a happy couple to appear on Facebook is some crap, blurry, unposed snap taken by a guest. I see it happen to other couples all the time and I just don’t think it’s very fair. Obviously, we hadn’t planned to go viral, but this decision paid off; the photo that appeared on most of the articles was one we had chosen and posted ourselves the morning after the wedding.

A small number of outlets dug up older photos of us from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, but it was all public content we’d posted ourselves so we couldn’t be too annoyed. However, I would have been really fucking peeved if a stack of wedding photos had been published all over the place. To me, this would have felt like a big invasion of privacy, so we were very glad that the photos weren’t out there to pillage.

We kept an eye on the coverage while we were away, but didn’t want it to take over our honeymoon. We couldn’t ignore it entirely though, that would be weird. Plus, the hotel had wi-fi and we had a very busy schedule of doing fuck-all.

While the stories appearing were generally positive and at worst tongue-in-cheek, naturally some commenters were assholes. I took the chance to reply to a couple – mainly to remind them that I was a real person who could read their words. I’ve done a LOT of social media work in my career which involves a lot of regurgitation of corporate messaging, so it felt good to be able to say what I damn well wanted. (In other words, politely telling people to fuck off, hurrah!)

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And inevitably, there were Angry Men commenting, because there’s no escaping Angry Men. Yawn.

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We appeared in over 100 articles in more than 23 languages. Our story appeared in Metro, The Independent, Daily Mail (bleurgh), The Mirror, Huffington Post, The Sun, Stylist, Refinery29, ThoughtCatalog, MSN, Daily Record, Cosmopolitan, Bored Panda, Mashable, A Plus, The New York Post, Men’s Health, Glamour, Woman Magazine and an absolute shitload more. We were mentioned on the news in the US, and were the punchline in a BBC radio comedy. The tweet that “went viral” has settled at 21,000 retweets and 64,000 likes, with impressions clocking in at a fairly ridiculous 5.6 million.

The buzz died down after a few days. “Going viral” was quite fun in the end, but it was certainly anxiety inducing. The last thing you want after the stress and the hassle of a wedding is to be ridiculed worldwide, so we were very lucky that majority of the articles were light-hearted, feel-good pieces. We also felt glad to have media experience through work, which helped to inform the decisions we made. 

So, what now? Well, 2017 has been INTENSE. I passed my driving test, got a car, had two hen parties, got married, had a honeymoon, a weekend narrowboating, two family holidays and OH YEAH went viral. Surely, SURELY, I’m allowed to sleep until Christmas now, right?