One of my personal pet hates, something that really grates my nipples, is the increasing number of articles and posts being passed around that are simply not true. And, not just the articles themselves, but the fact that friends and family are actually giving them the legs they need to do the rounds.
“Mars will be the size of the moon on X date,” “Fish from Japanese oceans is irradiated and will make you sick,” “Ten things found in hotdogs that you just won’t believe.”
You know the ones I mean. Some are bizarre hoaxes that seem to serve no real purpose at all, at least that I can see. Perhaps the work of bored college students whose erections increase in size with every misguided sharing of their bogus articles. And I guess I can’t really blame them for that, since I was as likely to do similar pointless things in my younger years.
It’s the other kind of bogus articles that really make me froth at the mouth. The purposefully misleading kind that’s real disguised purpose is money making. This done via guiding people to a particular websites for clicks, further deepening belief in deceptive or even completely false concepts or products, and, my personal worst, companies crying foul for untrue reasons and either begging for money or basking in the resulting publicity.
Now, I know all too well how difficult it is to get noticed in the enormous, saturated internet world, populated by hundreds of thousands of companies and groups, all jostling for attention. But I absolutely detest the spreading of false information for the sake of an industry. If you don’t know what I’m referring too, it would be the type of article that claims; “New studies show that X percentage of hotdogs is the equivalent of rat poison. (P.S buy our completely natural hotdogs instead.”) The article will never say, of course, that X percentage of the air we breathe is also poison, when separated from the other parts that make it not poison. I have nothing against organic hotdogs, mind you, just the pushing of the misconception.
Another article that springs to mind is a local pub that claimed it was being torn down in order to make way for a helipad. One that would be used by a highly disliked political figure. Needless to say, this was not true, but the pub saw a massive increase in business from the ensuing controversy.
So why do these kinds of articles keep cropping up, and why do they work? The answer is simple; people are more likely to react to something depending on the information involved and how it is packaged. Saying “buy our organic hotdogs, they are delicious and healthy” will only get you so far. People don’t find hotdogs particularly interesting, and especially ignore the blatant punting of products where they can. It’s far better to dream up something alarming, IE hotdogs are rat poison, and spread that instead, since people who believe it will react and feel obliged to share the information with friends and family. The result being; you sell a great deal more organic hotdogs.
Let’s make our own alarmist article for the sake of interest. First, we need something many people are involved in. Beer, for example. Now we need something to be concerned about and get a reaction from readers; beer makes you infertile, beer makes your IQ drop annually, beer makes you more likely to lose your hair. Any of these will do. And thus we have our article; “New study finds that beer makes you more likely to go bald. (PS, buy our organic beer instead.”)
I, personally, take great pride in the information that is allowed into my head. I look at all second and third hand information critically, do research, and like to confirm facts in my own time. I have paranoia about being manipulated and taken advantage of, you see, this probably the result of a life being manipulated and taken advantage of. So it honestly astonishes me to see who is willing to believe such false information, and willingly share it. I honestly had no idea how easily fooled the world was until the recent explosion of social media. Worse, I never realised how touchy people are when being told they are buying into, and spreading, fibs.
At the end of the day, I again understand the reasons for these articles, and sympathise with the difficulty of being noticed in the modern world, but I strongly feel that other types of emotional reaction are just as effective, and do not involve lying. Laughter is one. Making people laugh, although harder, is a far better means to get a product or company noticed. And will also avoid the inevitable negative backlash when the truth surfaces.
Another way is being helpful or informative. I personally love “life hack” articles and videos, which provide simple but effective ways to make every day life a touch easier or more enjoyable.
Are both these methods slightly more difficult than lying, and do they require more skill and effort? Yes. But, and I’m speaking to those who create false information articles, suck it up and learn some new skills, you cretins.