When a media professor handed students an assignment challenging them to go viral online, he suspected they would never pull it off. But they passed with flying colors by making him the butt of the joke.
Missouri State University student Sydney Arlt, along with several other classmates, posted a video on Twitter, claiming that the professor, Andrew Cline, “threw a party instead of having a final and no one showed up.”
Next to the text are sad face and broken heart emoji, taking a jab at the purportedly unpopular professor.
The clip quickly gained momentum online, receiving well over 7 million views within days.
But in reality, there was no party. The class staged the scene in response to Cline’s challenge, and while he appears in the video, it’s all an act.
Cline told HuffPost he never expected the video to spread like wildfire.
“I was surprised to the extent that it went viral,” he said. “I thought the group had a good idea — meaning their justification for the choices they were making fit with our class discussions. When they told me the idea, I thought it was possible to get maybe 50,000 views. That would have been on the high side of typical for most groups over the past six years I’ve been giving this assignment.”
A major point of the assignment, he explained, was “to show them that making something go viral on purpose is very difficult,” but the students left him stunned.
While it is clear now that the sad-looking party depicted in the clip never actually occurred, some Twitter users had no idea, sending their sympathies to the professor and accusing students of engaging in nasty behavior.
“Omg he even sprung for caramel delights. This professor deserves better!” one user lamented.
But Cline said that even in today’s era of misinformation and claims of fake news, the staged festivities didn’t bother him.
“This video was not fake news. It was simply fake,” he said. “And it wasn’t information, by any definition of that word I understand. There’s a large difference between a trifle such as this video and actual fake news meant to fool the public about important civic situations.”
The upside of fooling people, he added, was that it might cause “a few of them to question their consumption habits” when it comes to the media.