Trust Me, I'm Lying.
Ever notice the many pics on Facebook that ask you to “Share” or “Like” them are all heart-tuggers or fear-inducers? Of course, if they weren’t effective you would probably would never have seen it since one of your friends usually had to share it first.
The media is in the evil position of needing to go negative and play tricks with your psyche in order to drive you to share their materials online. For instance, in studies where subjects are shown negative video footage (war, and airplane crash, an execution, a natural disaster), they become more aroused, can better recall what happened, pay more attention, and engage more cognitive resources to consume the media than nonnegative footage. That’s the kind of stuff that will make you hit “share this.” They push your buttons so you’ll pres theirs.
Things must be negative but not too negative. Hopelessness, despair–these drive us to do nothing. Pity, empathy–those drive us to do something, like get up from our computers to act. But anger, fear, excitement, or laughter–these drive us to spread. They drive us to do something that makes us feel as if we are doing something, when in reality we are only contributing to what is probably a superficial and utterly meaningless conversation.
Whether it is Gawker or the Drudge Report, they cannot be successful unless they toy with our emotions. The sad thing is that they are successful, they raise our emotional state but rarely do they get us to action beyond a comment or a button press.