When the Gangnam Style music video hit YouTube in 2012, it became a viral sensation that made South Korean singer Psy an international star, and introduced much of the world to Korean pop music or Kpop. Psy's prancing dance moves inspired imitation and parody worldwide. And the video that seemed to erupt out of nowhere now has nearly two billion views.
More recently, videos involving prominent politicians have gone viral. In one, Staten Island Congress member Michael Grimm, angered by a television reporter's question, threatens to physically harm the reporter. The exchange, which was caught on camera, inspired widespread indignation. Grimm later apologized.
While many of the mega viral hits involve celebrities and public figures, the Flour City is no stranger to videos that have gone viral.
Rochester has a long history of creativity and innovation involving imagery, and some posts have garnered thousands of views and national attention. Others haven't risen to that level, but are still worth watching.
So what are some of Rochester's most memorable viral moments? What happens when you surf sites like YouTube and type in "Rochester viral?" What do you see and what kind of impression does Rochester make?
The results range from uplifting and hilarious to shocking and disturbing, with some deserving a trigger warning about possibly offensive content.
In many ways, viral Rochester reflects the things we tend to talk about in our daily lives: the weather, schools, economy, and crime.
The medium, which combines advances in smartphone technology with access to Internet social media sites, is still new, says Kimberly McGann, associate professor of sociology and anthropology at Nazareth College. People post videos for many of the same reasons humans have always communicated; they've seen or heard something and they want to share the information, McGann says.
In some cases, the postings reflect and reinforce a distorted view of the past. For instance, when Rochesterians talk about the troubles downtown, it's often through a nostalgic lens — how much better things were "back then." In that vein, many of the online videos showcase the heady days of Midtown Plaza, the monorail, and the bustle of Main Street shoppers.
One of the most nostalgic things out there is a video of an RG&E educational film, "Rochester, NY: A City of Quality." The film, which appears on multiple websites, opens with people walking purposefully through Midtown and stopping in front of the locally renowned Clock of Nations. Figures depicting 12 different countries appear on the hour inside cylinder-shaped capsules that are both enchanting and eerie.
Equally sentimental is a video called, "Blizzard in Rochester NY 1966." The footage features Lt. Governor Bob Duffy and long-time community leader Darryl Porter recalling one of the worst winter storms in Rochester's history. The storm, which dumped so much snow it buried cars and blocked out first floor windows, is the worst he remembers, Porter says.
Weather comes up again in "Remember oUR Name-University of Rochester," a rap music video that has nearly 150, 000 hits. The video was put together by the UR's admissions people to help promote the university to high school students. The video generated a lot of community pride, but the UR doesn't immediately jump to mind when you think of rap and hip-hop.
Last year's "Fake Professor on the First Day" was a certifiable viral sensation. The video, which has a whopping nine million views, shows someone pretending to be UR Professor Ben Hafensteiner talking to students on the first day of chemistry class.
The fake professor speculates about who will be among the more than 50 percent of students to fail his class and not make it through medical school. The prank, though hardly original, was hysterical to some students and annoying to others.
Many of Rochester's viral manifestations, however, have been contentious and stirred community debates. A video called "Ghetto Rochester" gives a sympathetic but disparaging look at the city's poverty-stricken neighborhoods.
The video serves as a stark visual example of what Mayor Lovely Warren so aptly described as the "other Rochester." The version of the city depicted in the video shows neighborhoods beset both by crime and low educational aspirations.
Among the most troubling video posts are those of Greece school bus monitor Karen Klein being taunted and bullied by students. The video, which has been posted on multiple sites, drew hundreds of thousands of viewers and became a major national news story.
And last summer, a video showing a Rochester police officer punching a combative pregnant woman reignited concerns about the use of force by police in minority neighborhoods. The Klein and police videos prompted communitywide discussions.
It's important, however, not to read too much into viral videos, says William Ward, professor of social media at Syracuse University. Even some of the most disturbing videos — one called "Rochester crackhead," for example, shows a woman willing to put her head in a toilet for crack — are not representative of Rochester, Ward says.
For one thing, he says, they frequently lack context.
Nazareth's McGann says the videos represent a tiny slice of reality.
"I think there's an awful lot of handwringing," she says. "It's not an indication as some people have suggested that it's the decline of our civilization."
Willie Clark, Jeremy Moule, Matt DeTurck, and Rebecca Rafferty contributed to this article.