So, art never goes viral? The OCD poet who won over the web

 

There are many unwritten rules of the internet but the greatest of them is this: art never goes viral. It just doesn’t. If you want something to travel round the world like a particularly virulent strain of glandular fever, it must showcase something “cute” (has ever a word been as freighted as “cute”?), or contain gratuitous violence. Them’s the rules and no mistake.

What happened today, therefore, falls into that other category beloved of the internet: “the impossible”. A video of a man performing a poem (yes, a poem!) sailed to the top of reddit, beyond one million views on YouTube – and set the twitterverse aflame.

Of course, this was no ordinary poem. It was a poem about love... and obsessive compulsive disorder. The video starts with a hirsute twentysomething in a plaid shirt and grandad braces, Neil Hilborn, standing, head bowed, in front of a microphone. He could be about to start singing a Fleet Foxes song. But then it happens. He leaps forward, phrases flying like scattered pigeons, lip-biting look on his face, into a pathos-filled belter about falling in love with OCD – and then losing that love.

“Usually when I obsess over things, I see germs sneaking into my skin,” he says, face growing ever redder.

“I see myself crushed by an endless succession of cars. She was the first beautiful thing I ever got stuck on.”

As you watch him trill through it at the Rustbelt Regional Poetry Slam, Wisconsin, you wouldn’t guess that the poem was three years old and the tics displayed were part of it, rather than an unwanted interruption to it. And even watching it again, after Hilborn revealed as much to Reddit users in an impromptu Q&A last night, it still packs a Tyson-sized punch.

Many things, though, come with a trunkful of emotional baggage and yet aren’t biff-batted round the planet in hours. What makes this different? Alan Bradshaw, marketing lecturer at Royal Holloway University, says: “For something to go viral, it needs to be in some way affirmative; seem genuine in its emotiveness; and also challenge cultural norms, in this case by bringing a side-lined voice – the OCD sufferer – to the fore. The video has all these things.” Reddit users certainly seemed to concur. For at least a few hours, a Coca-Cola world family mentality took hold on the usually snipey site. One user, Crunknizzle, neatly summed  up the general mood: “Duude your video gave me chills.”

For a rare, brief moment, the endless cacophony of the internet fell silent, the cute cat pictures remained un-clicked and a man reading a poem was one of the most watched things in the world.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Web Design Apprentice

    £6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well established websit...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Application Developer

    £40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: .Net / SQL Developer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A skilled .NET developer with e...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Technical Support Engineer - PC/Mac

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company are cur...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee