A Spectacle of a Post
The unexplainable success of a mundane piece of content
Sometimes you work on something really hard, and you think for sure that the internet is going to love it. And then you release it to the world and for whatever reason it lands with a thud. Then there are the other projects, the quick one-offs you don’t put much effort into, that for some reason everyone loves and shares.
This edition of the newsletter is about one of those low-effort things that inexplicably elicited a surprisingly strong response, and the lessons learned from it.
In April, 2008, I published a post on my blog about the most mundane of topics: the different ways people push up their glasses when they begin to slip down their nose.
I don’t remember what inspired the post. Maybe it really had been on my mind for some reason. But the post wasn’t one that I put nearly as much work into as I could have. It was really just a filler post to tide me over until I had a better subject to write about.
This is the complete text of that post:
Eyeglasses and the pushing up thereof
I’ve noticed lately that there seem to be
threefour distinct ways that people push up their glasses, and yet not a single study has been done about this. “10 Things You Can Tell About Your Man By How He Pushes Up His Glasses” seems like a perfect headline for a women’s magazine in the supermarket checkout line, and yet nobody is doing this important research. So here’s an overview:
Method 1: Placing one hand on each side of the frame, use the fingertips or midfingers of both hands in concert to raise the glasses into a comfortable position.
Celebrity who uses Method 1: Actress Tina Fey
Method 2: Using the fingers of just one hand, grab the frame front securely on one side and push the glasses up into a comfortable position.
Celebrity who uses Method 2: Magician Penn Jillette
Method 3: Using just one finger, press upward on the bridge of the frame, raising the glasses into a comfortable position.
Celebrity who uses Method 3: Journalist Clark Kent
Method 4: [Added after being mentioned by Pavel in the comments] Spread the hands across the face, with a thumb on one end of the frame and a finger on the other. In one motion, push the glasses up into a comfortable position.
Celebrity who uses Method 4: Pavel in the comments below
I think method 2 is the inferior method, because it raises the glasses unevenly and could cause strain on the end pieces or hinges. Method 3, meanwhile, may be the simplest and most efficient method, but seems to be associated with nerd behavior for some reason. Do people deliberately use method 2 over method 3 just to look cooler? Method 4 is efficient, but I’m not a fan because it temporarily obstructs one’s vision. But perhaps there is a refined technique I haven’t considered. I have not yet formed an opinion about method 1. But surely there is a university out there looking for some useless research to do, right?
For some reason, this post really resonated with people.
Almost immediately, comments began coming in. Everyone was eager to share which method they used, or suggest another method I may have overlooked.
People provided further analysis of the methods. One commenter wrote:
Method 1 is fundamentally flawed - although it looks “cute” it requires way too much energy (moving two hands instead of one). I think this is associated with self-righteous people who just want to look cool…
I think you’re right about #2 - it’s people who are trying to avoid #3. This means they are less confident with themselves.
#3 people are either confident, don’t care what people think, or do this method because it is the simplest and they’re busy or deep in thought. There’s no time for glasses adjustment, man! I’m working on important electronics here!
I see #4 … as a variation of number three, but for people who are more conscience of taking care of their property. People who do #4 are more likely to be money savers and they own cars for longer than other people.
Another commenter described how he is just beginning to explore the different methods:
I only got my glasses ~15 months ago, so I’m still figuring out whether I like #2, #3, or #4 best.
I had no idea that #2 was pretentious, but I tend to do it ironically (exaggerated), so I must have assumed as much on a subconscious level. I find it advantageous in that the rim doesn’t need to slide along the nose to reach its destination, and it allows for fine-tuning.
#3 is efficient, but if your nose is greasy (I’m 17) or you push it up too far, the efficiency comes at a price.
#4 is nice if you don’t want to raise your hand too high, and you don’t mind hiding your face. It’s a good alternative to #3, if you like symmetry.
A commenter named Samantha explained her own complicated method:
There is another method, but it is probably only reserved for super nerdy people who carry bags a certain way. Since my glasses only tend to fall down when I am walking briskly, I have developed a habit of turning my head, dipping it slightly and using the knuckles of the hand that is holding my purse high up on my shoulder. They usually hit the glasses in the middle, sometimes touch the lens but since it is the back of the hand, it doesn’t smudge them. The trick is to do it so fast that no one notices since it is kind of ridiculous.
Jessica’s comment makes me wonder if the topic was already somehow in the air:
How great is it that you posted this after I’ve been thinking OBSESSIVELY about this very thing for the past few months??
And Elaine asked:
Is it strange that I’m peculiarly attracted to men who use method #3?
I don’t have my traffic logs from back then to know for sure how many people saw the post, but by the time it ran its course, 80 people left comments on what I thought was a throwaway topic. That’s 80 people who were motivated to share their thoughts on something mundane but personal to each individual.
I think about this post sometimes as a reminder that:
You never really can predict what people will react to or how strongly.
The effort that goes into something is not always proportional to its success.
There are many more ways of accomplishing something than it may seem at first.
Aaaaand that’s it for another edition of the newsletter! If you enjoyed it, please leave a comment letting me know how you push up your glasses.
See you next time.
I use my elbows to push my glasses up.
I have many, many times wished for an Optigrab.
I'm in camp 4, for the reasons left in one of the comments. I have expensive glasses frames and want to keep them around for a long time.