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June 22, 2016

Going viral: Three teens share their experiences with Internet fame

Internet Social Media
just nicole just nicole/Vine

Nicole Gotto, of Delaware County, is known by her Vine account handle "just nicole" and is seen here in a screen shot from one of her videos.

Scrolling through social media, you never know what you’re going to find. One day it could be videos of latest dance trend – and about 20 remakes of it – and another it could be a new account of just teenagers high on anesthesia after having their wisdom teeth pulled.

In December 2014, 14-year-old Delaware County-native Nicole Gotto’s Vines – which almostly exclusively feature six-second clips of her lip-syncing and dancing to popular songs – captivated the short-attention spans of the Internet hoardes. Gotto, better known by her username "just nicole" on Vine, has experienced the highs and lows of what it means to go viral.

In a little more than a year, Gotto has enjoyed the thrill of being an Internet sensation, her Vine account amassing more than 150 million loops and nearly 100,000 followers. She also has felt the embarrassment that can come with online fame.

Gotto's glow up was a slideshow of her when she was younger and then her dancing to a Drake song. The post had more than 1 million loops, although she says her account was hacked and the original post deleted.

“People thought it was a joke, and I ran with it” Gotto said of that first viral video. “It was weird seeing something (I made, go viral) and have people recognize me.”

The virality came with its share of benefits and hardships.

Gotto, who is overweight, is often made fun of on her account. At school, she frequently is mocked walking through the halls, a situation she said peaked when one time when her principal had to intervene because a classmate wouldn’t stop bullying her for her videos.

There have been good experiences, too. Gotto said she is a positive influence to other girls who are overweight. She recalled her Vines getting comments from girls who would would say, “It’s cool seeing you do this. I’m a big girl and you have so much confidence, and it inspires me to have more confidence.”

“It’s weird because it’s just me,” Gotto said. “I’ve made friends through it, and it’s what I like to do.”

Savannah Rollo, 17, woke up one morning in December and learned the video she posted to Facebook months earlier of her dancing to One Direction's song "Drag Me Down" had 8 million views and thousands of retweets on Twitter.

Rollo had originally tweeted the video in August, and that night she said she went to bed expecting to wake up to about 50 retweets, optimitically. Instead she woke up with more than 2,000.

“For a month straight, I kept getting comments from people who saw it. Even some of my teachers asked me about it." – Savannah Rollo, 17

But Rollo, who lives in Ontario, Canada, didn’t truly go viral until a random day in December when a bunch of Twitter accounts who steal each other’s funny tweets started sharing her video with the caption “Get yourself a white girl who can dance.”

Rollo wasn’t even mad at the caption. “I laughed at it. I don’t care, and I didn’t take it to heart,” she said. "The vast majority of the comments were just laughing at the video and how crazy I was dancing."

What was even crazier was her video's reach.

“For a month straight, I kept getting comments from people who saw it,” Rollo said. “Even some of my teachers asked me about it.

“One day I was eating lunch at McDonald’s, and this girl comes up to me and shows me her phone of me dancing (and asked), ‘Is this you dancing?'" she said.

Rollo said she has always had a large number of followers on Twitter – more than 41,000 as of Tuesday – many of them originally drawn to her tweets by false rumors Rollo posted about One Direction. Because of her Twitter fame, people at school often call her by her Twitter handle “@pizzapopniall”.

The best part of the whole experience for Rollo is that she met singer Ed Sheeran partly as a result of her viral video. With her increased dedicated following, people kept sharing her tweets and videos with Ed Sheeran who met her outside one of his concert videos.

For Ethan Rockel, 18, a seemingly unproductive second period study hall at his high school outside of Chicago in February ended up becoming the buzz of Twitter nationwide. Rockel’s impressions of Arnold Schwarzenegger, George W. Bush, Forest Gump, and Shaggy from Scooby-Doo went viral over the course of one day.

“At the end of the school day the tweet had like 55 retweets, and I was like, ‘Wow that’s pretty good.’” he said. “Then I went home, and it got to 100, and I was like, ‘Oh my god it’s spreading.’ Then it got to 1,000, and I was like, ‘This is nuts.’ My phone’s blowing up … and Chris’s phone (the friend who tweeted the video) turned off like three times (becuase of the number of notifications). Then it hit 60,000 and I was like, ‘What is this?’”

For Rockel and his friends, the Rockel's impressions were nothing new. He said his friends had heard his Shaggy impression “hundreds of times.” This just happened to be the first time he decided to video it and post it online.

“It just blew up,” he said. “My cousins called me that night from Kentucky and Indiana within hours … It shows you how crazy the Internet is.”

A member of his high school’s boy's volleyball team, Rockel said after his tweet went viral he was asked to pose for photo's by several of his team's opponents. One time that he went to see his cousin’s volleyball team play, and he said he was asked by about 10 teams to take pictures with them.

“I even wore a hat the second day,” he said.

Every once in awhile someone will stop him to ask if he’s “the guy” from Twitter.

The original tweet was tweeted out from his friend’s account, and it was met with lots of laughter, but also a few people calling Rockel a “one-trick pony”.

Rockel, who wanted to silence his critics and get the boost followers he saw his friend get, made a second video with the same cafeteria scenery doing impressions of Robert De Niro, Elmer Fudd, and Shrek and Donkey. And although the video did not have quite the same virality, his number of followers did jump from 23 to 3,504.

Rockel’s “party trick” was inspired by the 2002 movie Master of Disguise, he said.

“A simple video can go across the nation in a couple minutes,” said Rockel, whose impression skill took years in the making. “How the heck did that happen?”