It Went Viral

By: Lee LeFever

I write books and run a company called Common Craft. I recently moved from Seattle to a rural island. Here, I write about online business, book publishing, modern home construction, and occasionally, dumb jokes.

This article was published as an issue of my newsletter Ready for Rain

It should be no surprise to Ready for Rain subscribers that I share much of my life online. This tendency goes back to at least 2003, when I started blogging, and has continued since then.

Over the last decade, sharing photos and videos was fun, but not exciting. A few followers here, a few likes there. Instagram and other services helped me keep up with friends and share tidbits of my life.

That all changed in December of 2023 when I started sharing videos of the ​Solstice Wall project​ in 1-minute videos, mostly as ​Instagram Reels​. To my surprise (and delight) the project went viral and changed my online experience, albeit temporarily.

Between December and March, over 15,000 people followed ​my account​. One day saw over 2,000 new follows.

Who are they? Where did they come from? I have no idea. 🤷🏻‍♂️ The algorithm works in strange ways. My account is now full of strangers with high expectations.

The Most Viewed Post

In the middle of the project, I summarized the progress in a brief video titled “​Let’s Review​“. This post has been the most popular by far. Some interesting stats

1.5 million plays? Nearly 19k likes? This is not normal for me. A stat for ​the video​ still boggles my mind:

9,500 Hours? Of a 1-minute video? ​Watch the video​.

The Comments

This influx of people led to sometimes hilarious discussions in the comments of a few posts. It gave me a front-row seat to how people use Instagram.

Many people were focused on the solstice idea and the sundial aspect of the project.

I appreciate snark and unvarnished opinions from internet randos.

Apparently, people don’t like using the “follow” button. Instead, they talk to the algorithm or request someone else to act on their behalf. So weird.

Why did it work?

A few theories… First, I wasn’t selling or promoting anything. I think people are distrustful when money is involved. Second, it was a story to follow. Once people saw the big idea, they were motivated to see it through and share it with friends. Third, it appealed to the Instagram Reels algorithm which showed the videos to a LOT of people I could not reach otherwise. Lastly, it was visually compelling.

This experience taught me that people love following a project from start to finish and it’s important to show them the expected outcome early in the process.

What now?

For all the effort, fun, and excitement, the online attention from this project had virtually zero impact on my offline life. As expected, I’m not earning income from it and no one has contacted me. It was a blip that came and went.

I feel a little awkward about the future of my account. The vast majority of my current followers arrived during the Solstice Wall project, and from here, they are bound to be disappointed. As I’ve said many times lately: I hope they like gardening!

A recent post about ​digging holes​ prompted over 100 people to unfollow me in one day. Over 1,800 have unfollowed my account in the last 90 days. I don’t blame them. Going from the Solstice Wall to hole-digging content is quite the leap.

What Matters

Social media is ephemeral. Ideas, projects, and memes come and go. Most of it is disposable and offers only a few seconds of entertainment. However, amidst the noise, there are real people and real connections. I hope the Solstice Wall project served as an introduction to me, a real person who does a lot more than art installations. I dig holes and catch crabs and obsess over plants. If a few new people feel a connection and stick around for all of me, that will feel like a win.

I continue to share videos of ​things I’m building​. If you feel a connection, I’d love to share with you.


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On most Tuesdays, I share a story from my life on Orcas Island and a recommendation for something I love. I'm interested in how to design work and home for lifestyle, livability, and fluffy dogs. Learn more.

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