When dubious claims emerge, we don’t just go right into creating sensationalist headlines mode, we like to get some manner of science involved first. If the science checks out, we run with it. If the science doesn’t check out … f**k science. Fortunately, this time around, the “scientists” at internet research lab/discovery engine StumbleUpon have postulated a hamster-centric internet moving forward.
According to their statistical team: “We are seeing a trend bubbling up based on content that is being stumbled on and we’re declaring that hamsters are the new ‘Internet cat’!”
“At StumbleUpon, we serve more than 500 million pieces per month – 53 million of which were hamster pages – and can spot trends before they go viral. In the last year, there’s been a 159% increase in hamster content on StumbleUpon and we’re seeing at least 60 hamster pages submitted every day.”
Sounds plausible, right? But NMR needed more than just raw data — we wanted a human presence to go with it. So we connected with StumbleUpon’s Global Head of Social Media, Valerie De La Rosa, to look us in the eyes and confirm it.
Why do you think hamsters are the new cat?
Valerie: Hamsters are the new cat because we live in a post-meme world. Take a look at the past the two Sundays (Super Bowl and Grammy Awards): we are constantly looking to give meaning to the unexpected. Cats on the internet are a given now; we need something new to give meaning to online. The stock market of viral content fluctuates according to how much social currency we give to the trending topic of the moment.
How will knowing all this stuff make the internet a better place?
The more educated we are on how and why we share content creates opportunities to make the internet a better place. It makes us smarter. Yes, the knowledge that hamsters are the new cat online informs us about how we interact with each other. When we share something online it’s an energy exchange between two people: when I share a cute hamster video with you, I am sharing it because I got energy from it, and I want you to share in the feeling. This energy exchange actually fulfills Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs — we share to belong.
Do the numbers suggest a forthcoming messiah in the form of a “Grumpy Hamster”?
One would imagine that a memetic messiah would eventually emerge. As I’ve said before, meme animal appearances are the petting zoos for [Millennials].
What are some other big trends that the numbers seem to suggest?
The numbers suggest that the viral-content barrier to entry is low because it’s the unexpected. Ugly is the new cute, and we’re going to see this emerge as a trend in 2015. For example, this piece on 16 shocking hairless animals has over 45K views in the past two weeks. Another trend that will continue to emerge is people giving meaning to inanimate objects online.
If you had a time machine, how would you use this knowledge for maximum financial gain?
Invest in hamsters? No, just kidding. Detecting early signs of virality is a big business. Using this knowledge for maximum financial gain would be packaging this data and selling it to brands and agencies who are looking to get ahead of the viral curve, and then of course, distributing that content on StumbleUpon.
So there it is: hamsters, hairless animals and inanimate objects. We should know if these claims are right in the coming months.