Social phenonema such as videos going viral or a trend suddenly becoming popular in a community are studied after the fact and involve trying to establish the chain of events and the individuals that were a part of the chain. Also, it involves studying how and why the word spread, and what were the factors that lead to the tipping point.
As an example, the recent viral spread of the Harlem Shake meme could have questions such as :
- Why did video A get more attention than B ?
- How did the meme spread from location C to location D ?
- Which social network played the major part in its spread ? How did the message flow across the network ?
- What was the timeline of major events that caused its popularity ?
- Who were the connectors and salesmen ?
The discussion would focus not on the psychology aspect (the why) but rather on the social aspect (the how).
So, should discussing and understanding social phenomena be on-topic ?