Once a day, every day since August 21, some fan with a weird sense of humor has posted the exact same photo of Italian pop singer Toto Cutugno to Facebook.
It’s not a new schtick, exactly: There is also a Facebook (and a Twitter, and a Tumblr blog) dedicated to a single photo of actor Dave Coulier. The amazing and unusual thing about this page, however, is that people really like it. A lot of people. Almost 50,000 people. And without fail — once a day, every day — the exact same unsmiling, heavy-browed photo of Cutugno gets approximately 1,500 of those little thumbs-ups, and a whole lot of bizarre comments. “It seems a little bit more somber to me today.” “The jacket was ironed better yesterday.”
There are even pages about the page about Cutugno’s picture: One, called “I like posting the same photo of Toto Cutugno every day,” publishes regular, bizarre meditations on Cugno and his picture. Another, called “the same comment on the same photo of Toto Cutugno every day,” trades in weird Photoshops of the famed image. (No word as to whether that page’s creator actually posts the same comment on the same photo every day — we’re not going down that rabbithole.)
The whole thing is so bizarre and so surreal, in fact, that it attracted the attention of researchers at Italy’s IUSS Institute for Advanced Study, who saw more than an impenetrable in-joke in all those identical photos. For one thing, they noted, it’s highly unusual to have a page that posts the same thing every day. And it’s even more unusual that a novelty page of that type should attract such a large and varied following.
To them, “The same photo of Toto Cutugno every day” represented an excellent opportunity to study how the actual content of a Facebook post influences its spread — as opposed to the workings of the News Feed algorithm, the consumption patterns of groups of friends, or other things we generally associate with virality on the world’s largest social network. As it turns out, content has a lot to do with it: Pages with “heterogenous” content tend to see wildly varying numbers of likes and comments on their posts. But Toto Cutugno, which only posts one thing, is constant: 1,500 likes, 40-odd comments. Ogni giorno lo stesso — every day the same.
That’s important, says Alessandro Bessi, one of the authors of the study, because it could help researchers model how urban legends, conspiracies and hoaxes perpetuate on Facebook. In fact, that’s Bessi’s main subject of research: He’s interested in how misinformation spreads online.
There’s plenty more research to do on that score, of course. But Bessi and colleagues may soon have more material to study. Since the Toto Cutugno page became popular in Italy, a number of (literal) copy cats have sprung up — like the adorable “every day the same kitty.”
“This page is madness,” one man wrote. “I like it.”