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How Photos Go Viral on Facebook

Samyak Lalit | October 12, 2012 (Last update: July 31, 2017)

Samyak Lalit is an Indian author and disability rights activist. He is the principal author and founder of projects like TechWelkin, WeCapable, Viklangta, Kavita Kosh among many others.

Facebook has come up with an impressive visualization of how stories spread on Facebook when they become viral. By “viral” we mean that the story gets shared a lot and reaches a massive number of audience. is a section of Facebook that presents extraordinary things happening inside the world’s largest social network.

To demonstrate visualization, Facebook has picked up three photos shared by American actor and author George Takei on his Facebook Page. These three photos went viral and were shared by hundreds of thousands of people. Here are the photos:

Marvin the Martian (311,889 shares at the time of writing)

Ab Fab London (90,194 shares)

Famous Failures (103,521 shares)

Taking the viral trends of these images, Facebook converted the data into videos. Explaining the videos, Facebook said:

Each visualization is made up of a series of branches starting from a single person. As the branch grows, re-shares split off on their own arcs, sometimes spawning a new generation of re-shares, sometimes exploding in a short-lived burst of activity. The two different colors show gender, and each successive generation becomes more and more white as time goes by.

The visualizations have been created by Stamen which is a design and technology studio in San Francisco specializing in maps and data visualizations.


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