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.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
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

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine