Remember the days before social media, when people just did cool things not for popularity and acclaim and sponsors but just for fun and personal satisfaction? Back then, the idea of a simple video shot by a regular guy going viral wasn’t something most of us could have imagined. Matt Harding was one of the first people to be internet famous in the very best way. By his own admission, he is famous for travelling around the world, dancing badly with people. You probably remember him for his 2008 video, which made the rounds of MySpace and Facebook like it was on fire!
His original 2004 video, shot as kind of a joke during his travels with friends, got 3.5 million views. The video caught the eye of Stride Gum, who hired him to make them a viral video for their launch. His subsequent videos have ranged between 19 million and 15 million views. But rather than getting greedy or conceited about his success at what he calls his accidental vocation, Harding instead found himself examining the bigger picture. His travels, during which he has spoken to thousands of people all over the world, have led him to conclude that globalization is forcing our brains to evolve.
“I am fantastic at seeing differences. Everybody is. I can quickly pick out those who look or behave differently, and unless I actively override the tendency, I will perceive them as a threat. That instinct may have once been useful for my tribe but when I travel, it’s a liability.
“When I dance with people, I see them smile and laugh and act ridiculous. It makes those differences seem smaller. The world seems simpler, and my caveman brain finds that comforting.
“I believe my children will have brains ever so slightly better suited to the vast complexity that surrounds us. They will be more curious, more eager to absorb and to connect. And I believe when they look into eyes of strangers, what they will see before the differences are the things that are the same.”
I take great solace from that idea. I certainly hope he’s right! At any rate, the videos are charming, and it’s lovely to find an uplifting piece of pop culture for a change!