“Chilled Out ‘Lazy Cat’ Goes Viral” read a recent Huffington Post headline.
This use of the term “viral” is now commonplace, i.e., something that suddenly becomes very popular and circulates quickly from person to person, especially across the Internet. Viral marketing, viral videos, viral political messages, viral cute cat pictures… They all share the common metaphor of a virus: first catch the virus, then spread the virus.
It is ironic that businesses and others have embraced this concept so completely, since it brings to mind some the worst stereotypes of business practices:
A virus takes over a host cell’s creative capacity and uses it to make copies of itself and perpetuate itself, usually at the expense of the host. Do big chain stores entering small towns spring to mind? Or the fact that you can’t go anywhere in the world without seeing a McDonald’s?