Harmony Smith spent Wednesday evening doing what she typically does when she finds she has some time on her hands: editing videos of her 5-year-old son, Elliott, to share with family and friends.
So she edited and uploaded her latest video, "High Five for First Kiss," a clip featuring Elliott sharing his first kiss with Bowie, their 6-year-old next-door neighbor. Smith, who's 24 and lives in Upland, Calif., sent the YouTube link to Bowie's mom and a handful of family and close friends, and then went to bed.
She woke up Thursday morning to a text message from a friend telling her that the video had been viewed overnight several hundred times and had been posted to Reddit, the social news site. "I'm calling it right now," the message said. "It's going to go viral."
He called it. Only five days later the video has garnered almost 5 million views. Ryan Seacrest featured it on his website. Justin Bieber tweeted it, and sites like The Huffington Post and CBS News posted it. Smith, along with Bowie and Elliot, is set to appear on Good Morning America on Tuesday and Jimmy Kimmel Live! Monday night.
"People are saying it's the next 'Charlie Bit My Finger,'" said Smith, referring to the 2007 YouTube clip that went viral and has more than 300 million views.
Smith describes her son, who will begin kindergarten in September, as a "showman" who loves to sing and dance. Even before the video went viral, Smith had considered getting him an agent. "He loves attention," she said. "When I told Elliott that Justin Bieber said he 'has game,' he thought that was really cool."
"I could not fathom the impact that it could have on people."
Reaction to the video has been mixed, with comments ranging from "sick" and "perverted" to "adorable," and everything in between (and, being the Internet, even more extreme).
Smith did not expect the two kids to kiss, and her voice can be heard in the video telling Elliott "no more" after they first plant one on each other. "Even though it was cute, and even though it was innocent," she said, "I didn't feel like it was appropriate as a parent to encourage it." She said that she's not against affection, "but children need to know when it's appropriate."
Smith said she's stopped reading the comments because there are so many -- the YouTube post has more than 40,000 -- but she receives between 50-100 messages each day about how the video has affected someone's life.
"I do appreciate when people go out of their way to tell me how it changed their life," she said, adding that she's saving the messages to show Elliott when he's older. "I thought it was just a cute video. I had no idea it was changing people's lives and views."
One message, from a 20-year old college student, has stuck with her. "Please pass along my thanks," the note said. "Tell them to never stop loving. It's people like them that save the world."