“If you want to control someone, all you have to do is to make them feel afraid.”

Paulo Coelho

I’m a marketing professional. Well… that’s a stretch… I’m in marketing. A profession that has a lot of potential for lies, deception, and (huge) exaggerations designed to grab attention and move people to action.

There are copywriting techniques, color theories, imagery strategies, and yes, psychological triggers.

Several studies have looked at what makes people interact with posts, videos, stories, and content in general. I won’t reference all of them, but at the end of this, I’ll link to a couple resources.

Here are the 5 emotions that spark the most interaction and sharing:
Anger
Anxiety
Awe
Excitement
Amusement (Humor)

Now… take a second to reflect on the articles/posts/tweets/videos that earn your interaction the most often.

Did they make you angry or outraged?
Did they make you anxious or afraid?
Did they amaze you?
Did they excite you?
Did they make you laugh?

Here’s another thing that I feel like we all know but forget to realize:
Content creators are paid on clicks, likes, comments, interactions, and time spent on their content.

That means if a headline or video thumbnail (the image that gives a preview to what the video has in it) can spark those emotions in you and get you to watch, read, and spend more time on a page, the creator gets paid.

The content doesn’t have to be accurate. It doesn’t even have to be true. It just has to get you to click and spend time on a website that is serving you ads that are designed to get you to click and spend more time on another website (and hopefully buy something).

The major content creators (think the media) are experts at eliciting these emotions and directing your behavior. The apps and websites you use everyday build a digital and psychological profile that knows you probably better than you know yourself.

Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… they know what you search, they know what you click, they know what political party your agree with, and a whole lot more. And with this information, they sell your profile to advertisers so that these advertisers are more likely to sell you what they’re peddling. Whether that’s information, votes, clicks, or products.

This isn’t meant to make a stand on those companies. It’s just to point out the fact that we are influenced more than we know and it is oh so intentional.

I’m embarrassed to admit the things I have bought because of the next crisis. Food storage, guns, bug out bags, insurance, hand sanitizer, toilet paper… the list goes on.

Not all of these are bad, but I bought several of these out of fear or anxiety.

I’ve also purchased several other things because they made me laugh. Dollar Shave Club razors, Dr. Squatch soaps, and the Lawn Mower 2.0.
Some of these worked as promised… others, well, not so much, but the ads made me laugh. They made me feel like they were speaking to me, they understood me, I could trust them.

Great job marketing team.

Here’s the deal. There are travesties throughout the world. It seems as though several have happened recently and caused an uproar, and with many of the incidents we’ve seen, people are and should be outraged.

But here is where things get malicious in my mind.

Media outlets, whether mass media or small blogs (like this) piggyback on singular events to blow them up into more outrage-inducing pieces to keep the clicks and visits coming.

Watch the posts that come across your feeds. I’d be willing to bet that the posts you see contain content that shows someone you strongly disagree with saying something you strongly disagree with OR someone you strongly agree with saying something in response to something you strongly disagree with.

Before you believe that all liberals/conservatives are evil, before you believe that all cops are racists, or that all black people are rioters or looters, or that all [insert politically charged phrase] are something else, remember, someone is making money off of getting you charged up.

If you find that a much of what comes across your feed is making you angry, which makes you share/comment/follow, guess what… you fell for it.

Some studies to consider:

Facebook’s emotional contagion study
The book Contagion by Jonah Berger, Chapter 3: Emotion
The book Trust Me I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday

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