Going Viral, Part Two

Matthew Sperling writes:

5 October 2013

Around midnight one day at the start of September, I got an email from an Evening Standard journalist who had found me through twitter. He was seeking comment for the next day’s paper for a feature of responses to the death of Seamus Heaney two days earlier. I sent him a hastily written 150 words before I went to bed.

The next morning I was getting on the tube at Tufnell Park at the start of my long journey to Reading when I noticed that a TfL employee had written part of a Heaney poem on the station notice board. I took a camera-phone snap of this touching tribute, and tweeted it out:

Matthew Seamus Heaney notice

For the rest of the day I sat in the Special Collections reading room at MERL, trying not to be distracted by the internet. But while I was ignoring twitter, something strange was happening there. My tweet had been picked up by @thejournal.ie, which tweeted it into the timelines of more than 150,000 people, and from there it was retweeted and linked to more times than I could possibly keep track of – notably by Dara Ó Briain, the comedian and TV presenter who has more than 1.5 million followers.

            When I got the train back to London that evening I picked up a copy of the Standard and found the words on Heaney that I had written in an email the previous night there in print, reproduced in a circulation of 700,000 copies:

Matthew Seamus Heaney article

About Cindy

Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature at the University of Reading. Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
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