It’s a classic parenting milestone when kids begin begging for a puppy. Puppy ownership often can provide teaching moments about responsibility, etc. (even if mom and dad do end up taking the majority of the walks when the kids promised just weeks before this wouldn’t be the case).

One dad though had an additional lesson to be learned when his children began asking for a pup. The brood of Northeastern University professor Ryan Cordell were told they could have the dog they so desired if they could get 1 million likes on a photo on Facebook.

The photo shows the children with smiling, hopeful faces holding a poster that reads “Hi World We want a puppy! Our dad said we could get one if we get 1 million likes. So Like this!” In a slightly smaller font, it also reads “he doesn’t think we can do it.”

Cordell Children Get a Puppy After Receiving 1 Million Likes on a Facebook Photo

(Image: Facebook/Twogirlsandapuppy)

The Cordell children received 1 million likes on the photo posted to their Facebook page “Twogirlsandapuppy” within seven hours of it being uploaded on Jan. 15. There are three versions of the photo posted to their Facebook page that as of Jan. 21 have more than 5 million likes in total.

Dad updated the Facebook page Tuesday evening while the children were sleeping writing that he “didn’t think it would explode like this.”

“Mom and dad are officially stunned,” Ryan wrote on the Facebook page later that evening. “We will have five ecstatic kids in the morning.”

Watch the girls debrief to the world in the morning when they found out they reached their goal:

As the Cordell’s social media success went viral on Facebook, the story was picked up by media outlets nationwide. WPIX in New York put together this report on the family:

The Cordell’s spent the remainder of the week researching and eventually adopted a rescue puppy named Millie through the North Shore Animal League America.

Cordell Children Get a Puppy After Receiving 1 Million Likes on a Facebook Photo

The Cordell children and their new puppy Millie. (Photo: Facebook/Twogirlsandapuppy)

Here the kids show off their new puppy:

There’s another component of the story though: it ended up being a social experiment. Ryan Cordell is not just any professor at Northeastern. According to The Atlantic, he’s a digital medial scholar studying 19th century texts to better understand what can make something “go viral” in today’s Internet-connected culture.

Here’s more from The Atlantic about Cordell’s family social media experiment as it relates to his own studies:

[...] What can studying viral culture from 200 years ago tell us about viral culture online today? As it turns out, the impressions Cordell has formed studying a period so long ago are exactly those that would lead you to believe that Twogirlsandapuppy would have a chance at catching on, but would at the same time lead you to dramatically underestimate the velocity and degree to which it would do so. Nineteenth century viral culture is quite like today’s Internet culture. And then again, it’s something totally different.

“I mean, first of all, we know obviously that cuteness does well on the Internet,” Cordell said. In the 19th century? Well, it was a bit different then, as we’re talking about texts more so than images, but the kinds of content that did well, at the broadest level of characterization, share qualities with what tends to go viral today. Many of these are obvious: Brevity, comedy, charm, and resonance with cultural values (in the 19th century, those were often religious ones) all increased the likelihood of virality. “Even 200 years ago, it still wasn’t complex philosophical treatises that were going viral. It was a short little pithy story that taught you a lesson,” Cordell observed.

The Atlantic reported that Cordell will continue studying his family’s experiment to learn what the viral spread of the photo looked like during its first seven hours. As for the lesson learned from this experience, dad might think twice before making a Facebook bet next time.

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