Working in the public relations industry, I spend a significant proportion of my day trying to come up with creative and original content that will inform, entertain and even inspire people to take a little time out of their day to engage with something I, or my clients, have to say.
And then, one day, I find out that even my best efforts have been dashed…by a puddle.
I am of course referring to #DrummondPuddleWatch, an impromptu social media “happening” in which 20,000+ (the counter eventually broke due to overuse) people took to Twitter to comment and react to a small puddle of water on a rainy bridge outside marketing agency Drummond Central’s office.
Streamed live across the video sharing application Periscope, the puddle has inspired a torrent of memes, social commentary and even mainstream media coverage. As I write, professional photographers are arriving on the scene, as experienced journalists broadcast the coverage live from BBC News 24.
So what does this tell us about our new digital society? Well, a cynic would say that it tells us what a vapid, gullible and easily entertained species we of the internet age have become. But I think that’s unfair.
The puddle itself may be as dull as dishwater, but the experience of #DrummondPuddleWatch is a fantastic illustration of how the internet uncovers previously unobserved fragments of human nature.
This collective experience has highlighted the way that online communities form (and ultimately dissolve) in an instant. It showcases the tenets of gamification, as eager viewers place bets on whether someone will jump over or circumvent the puddle.
It shows us the vain self-publicising nature of internet celebrities, as locals and vloggers rush to the scene for their fifteen minutes of fame. It’s even told us a thing or two about the nature of online marketing, as brands and corporations attempt to newsjack the hashtag, ultimately leading many “first generation” viewers to abandon the event, claiming that it had lost its way and ultimately grown too mainstream for its own good.
This may all sound ridiculous to those outside of the event, but in the age of crowdsourcing, who are we to say that this isn’t entertainment? It’s original, it uses an innovative platform, it’s generating controversy and debate and – best of all – it’s making people laugh. As internet content goes, that pretty much ticks every box.
So, as the mainstream media arrives and the puddle ultimately dries up (in every sense), I like to think that we’ve learnt a thing or two from this experience. Not just about internet culture, but about ourselves as well.
Next week, a live podcast of paint drying in Darlington.