Sarit FIshbaine Sarit FIshbaine Sarit Fishbaine got a second opinion on a lump in her breast after seeing an episode of "Grey's Anatomy." (Photo: Courtesy of Sarit Fishbaine)

Family members go viral during crazy week

How a humble professor and his daughter became internet famous.

Most of us will never know what it's like to "go viral" on the internet. We can go about our lives, posting photos and videos, sharing stories, tweeting and Instagramming, and no one but our friends and family will see the posts.

Now imagine a member of your family becoming an internet celebrity. A lot to handle, right? Then how would you feel if you became "internet famous" a few days later?

Hard to believe? But that's what happened to Sydney Engelberg and his daughter, Sarit Fishbaine. Internet fame came to both Israelis this month for unrelated reasons.

To refresh your memory: Photos of Engelberg, a psychology professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, holding a student's fussy baby as he taught class went viral. He was dubbed "the baby whisperer." Then, a week later, Fishbaine's article about how an episode of "Grey's Anatomy" led her to a breast cancer diagnosis was published at Yahoo Parenting. The article was read by more than 300,000 people.

It's easy to conclude that an intrepid reporter discovered Fishbaine's story while reporting on Engelberg's. But, as Fishbaine told From The Grapevine: "The whole thing was a complete coincidence. The writer who published my story reached out to me about two months ago. We did a lot of correspondence by email over the next month. My story was actually supposed to come out two weeks earlier but was delayed a bit due to editing. Meanwhile, the whole tsunami with my dad just happened completely spontaneously, and [it was] totally unexpected."


Posted by Shonda Rhimes on Friday, May 15, 2015

It's definitely a study in the different ways a story can connect with people online.

In the case of Engelberg, Fishbaine posted a photo of her father in his Hebrew University classroom on her Facebook page. The photo site imgur republished the photo, and it went viral, attracting more than a million views. Fishbaine's story picked up steam when "Grey's" creator Shonda Rhimes posted the article to her Facebook page, which has more than 100,000 followers.

"My dad's story caught us by complete surprise. We really didn't believe it would get that far," said Fishbaine. "At some point I understood it would be popular but then it started making waves overseas."

Engelberg was also surprised at how both stories seemed to cross borders and oceans. "We are both gratified and somewhat embarrassed," he told From The Grapevine. "We never expected anything like this and are a little overwhelmed at the outpouring of recognition, appreciation and praise."

Why do they think their stories connected with so many people?

"I suspect the stories connected so strongly because the actions were spontaneous and sincere and so clearly so. And in my case, captured in a photo," said Engelberg.

His daughter, on the other hand, just feels people want something to make them smile. "People are thirsty for positive news, stories with good endings that represent hope and kindness. People in their basic instincts are good and kind and are drawn to optimism." In her case, many of the strangers who sent her messages talked about needing second opinions to get a more accurate diagnosis.

Then there were the "Grey's Anatomy" fans, who thought the story had something to do with a certain Dr. McDreamy. "The funniest comments were on the 'Grey's Anatomy' official Facebook page," said Fishbaine. "Some people thought it was all a publicity plot just to regain popularity after [the show] killed off Derek Shepherd."


Photos and SlideshowsPhotos and Slideshows
Family members go viral during crazy week
How Sydney Engelberg and his daughter Sarit Fishbaine became internet famous.