I don’t mean click-bait. I mean write-bait. That article that wants you to launch your 2.000 words rhetoric missile, and click the red button: Publish.
I am pondering about one of the most successful genres clicked and shared on social media: a blend of popular psychology, life hacking, and business wisdom, perhaps enriched by trusted thought leaders’ anecdotes.
Viral articles often match one of the following patterns:
1) The positive version that wants you to be part of the chosen group:
People who are X are also capable of Y.
X has usually a somewhat negative connotation, so capability Y comes as a surprise and as a relief.
[Also introverts can be great leaders.]
In addition, X is not clearly defined (maybe Y isn’t either), and it will be easy to find a multiple-choice test that gives you confirmation about your status as a winner.
2) The negative version that makes you feel happy about not being doomed, or giggle mischievously:
People who are X are not capable of Y.
To make this work, X-People need to be a minority, and Y needs to be something the target audience recognizes as desirable.
[Book-smart academic over-achievers will hardly be successful entrepreneurs].
These articles are light entertainment for the Non-Xers, but X-People might have a hard time resisting the temptation to take the bait. Especially when they feel they haven’t tagged a blog post with Rant for a long time.
If there is anything to gain here in terms of self-improvement and self-hacking, it is the ultimate test of your Stoic attitude. You can refine and polish your counter-arguments over and over, make it more poignant and provocative, or more balanced and thoughtful. Make it more anecdotal, personal, and honest, or more detached and based on rock-solid research. You might long to dance on the slippery area in between, mastering the art of making fun of yourself without too much self-sabotage.
But no matter what you write: If you take the bait it will always sound like whining, nitpicking in the wrong place, or re-defining and twisting terms like ‘success’ to meet your own agenda. Besides, it may hurt your productivity at work to turn around that unpublished piece in your mind again and again. So do yourself a favor and trash your draft.
Also notorious wafflers are capable of writing short posts.