Paul Waldman wonders about the moment when click-bait burnout sets in:
Once you’ve clicked on a few posts that promised to make you cry or change your view of the world forever but didn’t deliver, your default assumption will become that when you see something like that, it means somebody’s trying to get you to be a part of something artificial. It’s one thing to send something truly inspiring or outrageous to your friends or Twitter followers and brighten their day for a moment, but nobody wants to be a tool of someone else’s phony marketing campaign or mean-spirited hoax.
And I think that’s the danger for these ventures. The more conscious people become that by passing something along they’re not so much participants in a beautiful collective celebration of our shared humanity, but are instead part of an intentionally constructed attempt at content viralization, the less they’ll want to be a part of it. Because after all, one of the hallmarks of not just Millennials but the couple of older generations going back at least as far as Generation X is media savvy, or at least the desire for media savvy. We all want to think we’re immune to advertising’s manipulations and we don’t get suckered by even the cleverest marketing campaigns.
Rob Horning’s related musings:
The fact that virality can be “reverse engineered” without fear of shortages of viral-worthy content is interesting enough. “Amazing” and “heart-warming” or “surprising” content is a matter of form, not extraordinary incident. These words trigger likes the way old novels triggered tears – you didn’t want to seem unfeeling so you did it. But the fact that “everyone on the Internet” has become so good at “emulation” suggest the appeal of viral content is in the model it provides for self-memeification. Are we all starting to premise our self-worth on being as viral as Neetzan Zimmerman’s content? Is the pursuit of virality becoming hegemonic, as online “engagement” metrics that track viral content are taken also for reliable measures of self-esteem?
The point of viral content, in part, is not to learn about “little girls in Afghanistan who are better at skateboarding than you’ll ever be” or other such stories (which often turn out to be untrue) but to be the person who responds correctly to them and who tells someone else about them.
(Screenshot from Huffpo’s front-page)