The digital landscape is in a permanent state of flux as new platforms emerge and old media get reworked or abandoned. In the midst of these changes are creators, who are tasked with finding ways to keep users interested. I’m among them, and I inadvertently used an outrage clickbait strategy that backfired.
In 2014, researchers from Beihang University in China found that rage was the most viral emotion on the Sina Weibo social networking platform. Their findings indicate that users commonly engage and share content that make them angry.
“Anger is a high-arousal emotion, which drives people to take action,” states Jonah Berger of the University of Pennsylvania. “It makes you feel fired up, which makes you more likely to pass things on.”
This is typified by the rise of fake news on the web as people mindlessly share articles simply because the headlines upset them. In fact, the problem is so bad that Facebook has invested in features to counter the spread of outrage clickbait.
The virility of anger has been capitalised on blogs and news companies for years. Indeed, as Ryan Holiday states in the Observer, tapping into people’s outrage drives their comments and content views.
Where I come in
When I returned to blogging, I indicated my intention to be driven by purpose. My desire is to use my life experiences to help people and share my unique perspectives. Still, my work is also a source income, and finding harmony between generating revenue and following my passions has been a learning process.
In my time away from YouTube, for instance, there have been several major changes. Updates to the algorithm have made the discoverability of creators’ work less certain. Therefore, we have been encouraged to try different approaches to make our videos stand out.
After an eight-month hiatus, I uploaded the first new episode of Trini Trent TV last month. The responses were positive yet slow, and I was afraid people had lost interest in the show. So, I learned everything I could about titles, thumbnails and other ways to get viewers onboard.
Among the tips I gathered was how attention-grabbing headlines capture people’s attention. As such, I began experimenting with my video titles. Unfortunately, it didn’t always work in my favour and I unknowingly crossed the line.
How outrage clickbait worked against me
I recently published an episode of Trini Trent TV originally called “Why the ’90s Were Overrated.” In that installment, I shared a story about my issues with reverse culture shock upon returning to Trinidad and Tobago. Moreover, I spoke about the resistance to change in my country, and how I was guilty of similar behaviour regarding pop culture.
My intention was to encourage people to connect to the present moment and let go of the past. At no point in the video did I criticise, insult or put anyone down. In fact, I kept the focus on me as I held myself accountable for my past actions.
However, the episode upset many people because they never made it pass the title. In addition to dozens of angry responses in the YouTube comment section, I also found a thread of outraged persons on a pop culture forum.
What troubles me about the reactions to the video is that people are upset, despite not watching it. Truly, had they seen a minute of the show, they would have known it had nothing to do with insulting the ’90s era.
Regardless, this is a problem of my own creation because of the title and thumbnail I chose.
What I learned
The first Great Law of Karma states, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” Yes, this debacle resulted from miscommunication but it also stemmed from my own insecurity and ego.
For just a brief moment, I lost touch with my intention to help people. Instead, I focused on the metrics and getting attention for my work. Furthermore, I sought to match my past numbers and unfairly compared my blogging journey today to what I did back then.
Thankfully, I was reminded by friends as well as people who watched and enjoyed the Trini Trent TV episode that this is a process. I’m still discovering what this new path entails as I connect with people without relying on spicy titles. Hence, I toned it down.
This is bigger than me
Tim Kreider, who coined the term outrage porn, shares his view on people’s an indignation in The New York Times. “One reason we rush so quickly to the vulgar satisfactions of judgment, and love to revel in our righteous outrage, is that it spares us the impotent pain of empathy, and the harder, messier work of understanding.”
Simply, it’s easier for people to lash out at what bothers them than to understand others. Thus, I will follow the fifth law of karma and take responsibility for what has manifested in my life.
This is a teachable moment. It has shown me and those others paying attention to my missteps that true purpose needs to remain in focus. Yes, a smart business strategy is important but the key is to find harmony between that and what I want to achieve with this blog.
Besides, I used a spicy headline to make people click the video. It’s no wonder their responses were equally fiery.
“The world is a great mirror. It reflects back to you what you are. If you are loving, if you are friendly, if you are helpful, the world will prove loving and friendly and helpful to you. The world is what you are.” – Thomas Dreier