The Moment in Time: Someone says something witty via Twitter and/or posts a wacky YouTube video.
Thirty seconds later: A handful of unemployed “technologists” take note and begin re-Tweeting and sharing the quipster’s wisdom via Facebook.
Five seconds later: The same handful begins Tweeting/Facebooking about how awesome it feels to find this stuff before everyone else. Their supposed friends roll their eyes, literally and in emoticon form.
Two hours later: Viral-ness begins. Cutting-edge blogs like Valley Wag and TMZ discover and post “stories”. Aggregation sites may also begin to draw attention to the deft phraseology or humorous video. A frumpy guy named Michael Arrington waxes poetic about the virtues of the Internet. Roughly 6.5 billion people don’t notice.
One day later: A true viral phenomenon is upon us. The original author scrambles to think of another witty thing to say and/or figure out what a “business model” is. People in the Midwest and Iceland are in stitches.
One more day later: Schools close due to rampant hilarity, and a brazen politician clumsily misreads the reference handed to him by his 22-year-old aide, on C-SPAN. Jon Stewart makes fun of said politician’s technological ineptitude on The Daily Show. The virus is dead.
One week later: An 80-year-old woman in Crosby, North Dakota “dials up the Internets” and checks her Google News feed, belatedly uncovering the viral marvel. She laughs like she’s never laughed before, cranks up her Shakira station on Pandora, and dances madly while BBMing all her friends.
One month later: My mother calls me, from a landline telephone, to inform me that someone sent her an e-mail (wtf?) with a link to a supposedly hilarious bit of online chicanery. She asks me how to click on a link. I hang up and text her that I don’t talk on the phone anymore, evah. The text enters the ether unread, not because my mom won’t spend $5 a month for the capability to receive texts, but because she doesn’t know how to.
Another month later: A man in a pinstriped suit is informed by a younger man in an Armani suit (no pleats) that Unnamed Old Media Company simply must create a TV show about certain witty comments circulating around the WWW (he still actually says “dub dub dub”). Production begins immediately (i.e., in several weeks, following pre-production, whatever the hell that is).
One year later: A local broadcast news anchor (assuming these things still exist) mentions the original quipster in a cliché-laden “Where Are They Now?” segment. The original quipster is in Maldives sipping coconut milk with supermodels, and wholly forgotten.
(For the record, this author considers shitmydadsays the Internet’s finest moment. Thanks, Al Gore.)