My 15 minutes: When my Facebook event went viral
Even if you’re not from Chicago, you’re probably familiar with one its most famous pieces of art. The magnificent statue called Cloud Gate, or what’s commonly referred to as The Bean. Built in 2004 by Indian-born British artist Sir Anish Kapoor, the statue stands right in the middle of Millennium Park, a few feet away from the Art Institute of Chicago. Since it’s unveiling nearly 14 years ago, The Bean has been a hub for tourists and locals alike, standing next to it’s mirror-like exterior trying to snap that perfect selfie telling the world, “Look at me! I’m in Chicago!”
Growing up just a half an hour away from the city, I never saw the appeal of The Bean. I even have this running joke among my family and friends that I even despise the structure, which honestly, isn’t far from the truth. I believe my disliking of it started my junior and senior years of high school when my prom group wanted to go see the statue the day after prom both years. We grew up in a small Indiana town a half hour away, we’ve seen The Bean before. There’s even a picture of me in front of it last summer with an unamused expression. If I’m being honest, I can write a whole book about why I don’t like The Bean, but this feature isn’t about my dislike for Cloud Gate, actually it’s more of a story of irony. You see, back last October, I created a Facebook event dedicated to The Bean that went viral.
Creating a Viral Event
Image from Know Your Meme
If you were on Facebook during the fall last year, you might’ve noticed that random events focusing on The Bean starting to appear on your feed. Events ranged from pretty normal to pretty out there. There were events called “Windex the Bean”, “Critique the Bean’s Resume”, and my personal favorite, “Release The Bean into Lake Michigan and shout ‘You’re Free!’”. Of course there were many others and each had some sort of photoshopped image for the event header. These events based on The Bean was a new meme.
Image from Know Your Meme
My friends and family took this opportunity to start sending me random Bean-related events asking if I would like to go to these. I knew these were fake because of the sheer ridiculousness of some of these titles. This got me thinking, “what if I created an event of my own?” I’ve never had any luck in the past with any of my art or random Twitter posts going viral, so if I made an event, only my family and some close friends would be interested. Right?
On October 29, 2017, one of my friends sent me a screenshot of another Bean event titled, “Scrape Off The Paint From The Bean So We Can Windex It”. This event was so random and out there, something inside me decided that now was the right time to create an event, regardless if anyone saw it. I told my friend that I was inspired to make one, with which she replied “You totally should”. I had to think of something out there, something completely random that would make no sense. Then, I finally had an idea. The name of my event would be “Catapult The Bean Over Sears Tower.” I took to Photoshop, and using the fabulous skills I’ve so far learned from being a Journalism-Graphics student here at Ball State as well as being the Assistant Creative Director for Byte, I created the infamous header image for my event.
Logging onto Facebook soon after, I created it with the description reading “Let’s make The Bean fly.” The event was shared on my profile for my friends to see. A few minutes later, a few of my friends said they were interested in it. I figured that this was as far as it would go. A few hours later, I decided to check how my event was doing, so I logged back onto Facebook. What I discovered surpassed all of my previous expectations I had. My event had over 100 people interested and growing. In fact, people were posting things in the event.
The posts ranged from people tagging another person, random posts, or promoting themselves or their own event. My favorite posts, however, were either the people commenting on how a trebuchet would work better, complaining how these events were stupid, or actually believing this event was actually going to happen.
No matter the post, I would try to reply to all of them with a sarcastic, but funny, comment. I consider myself a pretty humorous person and I base it on YouTubers Jacksfilms and Jenna Marbles. I knew I had to be quick witted and not take myself seriously. Be as sarcastic as I can. I found that those responses generated a better response from the people. There were people actually trying to scientifically prove how much force it would take for The Bean to launch over Sears Tower.
Aside from all of the posts on the event, people were privately messaging me. Someone asked me what was going to happen if they showed up, with which I replied, “Absolutely nothing. It’s a meme that’s been going around Facebook for a while.” One asked how I was going to launch it over the tower. Another asked me if they could be an admin because they wanted to “add load calculation and blunts for a catapult capable catapult.” But I soon learned that one of the consequences of having an event, or anything in particular go viral, is getting messages from suspicious people. One case in particular was really strange, and kind of terrifying.
There was a guy posing as a United States servicemen who was stationed in another country. He wanted to talk to me and get to know me. He said he “valued our friendship” even though I’ve never spoken to him before. The thing that got me to notice that this dude wasn’t who he said he was was the fact that his so called “English” was very broken and he didn’t know how to type. Like his messages were put through Google Translate before being sent to me. The last message I received from him was him looking for a potential wife. I replied by blocking him.
Outside of Facebook
I was curious to see if my event was gaining any traction outside of Facebook. I decided to look it up on Twitter and to my amazement, people were actually talking about it. Not a lot, but still way more then what I had thought! I liked all of the posts including one that featured the image from it. The user commented how the image for the event made her “WEEP”, so I decided to reply to it with “at least my graphic design classes in college are paying off”. She immediately replied with “Oh my GOD ARE YOU THE SAINT WHO MADE THIS” and “YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR AND SKILLS ARE A+”.
I even decided to google the event. I found that it made it on Know Your Meme and even Reddit. The Bradley Scout, Bradley University’s student newspaper in Peoria, Illinois, referenced the event in one of their articles.
Image from Redbubble
Redbubble user Schlaacka designed shirts, prints and even stickers inspired by the event. I’m considering purchasing a sticker of the design to put on my laptop.
Aside from finding my event out in the wild, I had friends messaging me saying that they just found out that I was the creator of this event. One friend messaged me saying that her penpal who lives in a different country said she loved the event “Catapult The Bean Over Sears Tower” and she replied with “I know her! She lives right down the street from me!”
My sister was even getting messages from her friends asking if her sister was trying to launch The Bean or telling her that I’m famous.
When the day of the event happened, over 34,000 people were interested and over 4,800 people said they were going. Looking back, I still can’t believe something I created went viral! It’s a weird feeling. Most people probably think that once something of theirs goes viral, their life will change and people will know who they are, but from what I learned throughout my journey, nothing changes. Even with a nickname like “Tt”, no one knew who I was. The event was the only thing that people knew about, and I’m honestly alright with that. The only thing that had my name attached to it were the various screenshots of the event with my name next to the “Hosted by” section. It’s weird to think that my name is kind of attached to an event dedicated to something I’m not the biggest fan of. In fact, for Christmas this year, my sister got me a miniature version of The Bean that I currently have sitting on my TV stand in my room.
I wanted to ask my friends and family about how it feels knowing someone whose Facebook event went viral. The following are their responses:
“It’s one of those moments when you unexpect the expected. I’m disappointed, but I am also very proud she had enough courage and stupidity to do that.” -Alexandria Shinkan, sister
“At first I didn’t even realize you created it! Then I saw 30,000 people had liked it and your name on it. I was proud of you but couldn’t believe that many people knew about it.” -Nadene Shinkan, mother
“I thought of course it would be Tt to go viral. I thought it was so funny. I told my friends up here [Western Michigan University] about it and some said they even heard about it and that was just so funny and crazy to me.” -Emily Grunewald, friend since preschool
“I thought it was hilarious! Both the event and that my friends down at school [Butler University] knew about it.” -Dylan Goodman, friend since elementary school
I even asked the organization if they remember seeing it and their reactions to finding out I created it:
“I do remember seeing it and my thought was ‘god all the amazing work Tt does and as talented as she is, this is what's going viral. I hate the internet’” -Matthew Yapp, Managing Editor
“Yes. When I first saw it I honestly didn't realize you had created it. So I was honestly really surprised when I found out something that went viral was made by someone I knew!” -Emily Reuben, Editor-In-Chief
“I wasn’t exactly aware of its exact creation but I remember one day on Facebook seeing a whole slew of images with funny Bean events. I thought it was really funny especially considering the kind of person the artist of the bean is, too. To have his creation become a meme was, in a funny way, a middle finger to him. That was my initial reaction.” -Isabella Torres, Assistant Creative Director
“I remember laughing my ass off for a couple minutes and thinking ‘Jesus, how far is this meme gonna go?’ Then I showed my roommate who’s from Chicago and he laughed pretty hard too. Then when I found out you made it, I thought good for you and that it was a pretty funny meme.” -Gunner Masters, Features writer
This journey was very surreal to me and it’s probably something I won’t get to experience again for a long time. A lot of people tell me that I’m famous, but I have to disagree with them. “Catapult The Bean Over Sears Tower” is just an event that happened to gain a lot of attention, and I happen to have my name attached to it.
The only question remains is, do I create another event? And the answer is, maybe. If another Facebook meme presents itself on my timeline, I might consider making another, but I’m actually pretty content with this one. I love the irony of being known as the girl who created an event on a piece of art she despises. It really tells a lot about me as a person.
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