Loyal readers will recall that back in January, we told you about how making New Year’s Resolutions was destined to fail due to circumstances beyond your control. The whole system is rigged against you.
In that article, we told you to come back in April and we would make new resolutions that we’d have a better chance of keeping. So put down that tub of butter, because it’s April, and it’s time to make resolutions!
For others. We’re going to make resolutions for others. We’re already perfect.
Let’s see what it’s time for the world to change.
Resolution 1: Stop with online April Fool’s Day “pranks”
Let’s start off with the plague that will infest everything you see today. Interested in finding out about the news? Good luck checking Snopes for every article you read, since someone decided it would be hilarious to just flat-out lie with made-up articles on April Fool’s.
The process here is absurd. News outlets spend enormous amounts of time and resources to build up their reputation to a point where people believe them. They want to be known for their integrity, so people see them as the gatekeepers of what we should know.
Then they fart that all away on April Fool’s. One day each year they decide they should be no better than the National Enquirer and their stories about bat-babies or whatever, all in the hopes of fooling their readers (and, mostly, to generate viral recognition for their hilarious joke of trying to trick people). There isn’t even a joke; they just present a fake story as the truth and wait for the laughs. That’s not funny. That’s just lying.
Lying to people to see if they’ll believe you is the domain of adulterers, politicians, and teens. It shouldn’t be a job requirement of journalists.
Resolution 2: Understand how lists work
List-based articles, or “list-icles” as no one calls them anymore because the kids who run social media change things too often for me to keep up, are here to stay. I get that. People like their information broken into bite-sized chunks. That’s fine.
But people who write them need to understand how lists work if they’re going to keep using them. When you have an article with “13 Disney Princesses Reimagined as Transgendered Pokemon” or whatever, don’t tell me that #5 will break the internet.
If #5 is the one that’s so amazing that you have to call attention to it in your header or subheader, then make it the last one. Build up to it! Bring back countdowns and you can make it #1, since it’s the number 1 most amazing one you have to show us.
Resolution 3: Stop telling me my reactions
This often goes along with the counticles mentioned in the last resolution. And it’s usually found in the called-out number–#5 will break the internet, or #4 will blow my mind, or #7 will make me cry. It’s not limited to numberposts though. Any article can claim to break the internet, or blow your mind, or make you cry.
You don’t get to determine how I’m going to react to things. Guaranteed? What do I get when I don’t care about the movie at all?
You know what movie made me cry? Spider-Man 3. It was just so awful it made me despair for humanity and the Spider-Future it had in store for me. It’s not on that list. You couldn’t anticipate that reaction because you can’t anticipate me. So stop trying.
When you claim the reaction to something is going to be so extreme, it can do a number of different things. What they’re hoping it does it prime you to have that reaction (and, mostly, get you to click on it in the first place to see what would cause that reaction, before you find out it’s the one millionth time someone told you you’d cry about a dog seeing a soldier for the first time since he went on tour). But it can also set you up to be disappointed when it doesn’t live up to the hype because it’s just another dumb story about how a kid said some generic thing that’s supposed to restore your faith in humanity but just reminds you that kids don’t have life experience.
The prediction of emotion can also act as a challenge. If you’re like me, you get
irrationally angry at these headlines and just go in determined not to feel anything but contempt for the writer. And you succeed! So, that’s one good thing, I guess. The best part is you don’t even have to read the article to get the smug sense of satisfaction and righteous indignation, so they don’t even get the page view.
For others who don’t have my healthy sense of finely tuned hatred, it might also make them feel pressured to react in the way it says they should. If they don’t, they might wonder what’s wrong with them, causing distress.
Or it could be teaching the robots how to react to various situations in a believable way so we don’t see them coming for their uprising.
There’s nothing good about these headlines. Just stop it.
Resolution 4: Stop exaggerating
Ok, still not off the last topic. This one is slightly different, but related.
When you tell me something is going to break the internet, you are wrong. I don’t care how scandalous the new picture of Kim Kardashian is, the internet will continue functioning. In general, anyway. Mine might go out when I throw my empty bottle of Jack Daniels and it breaks my router while I weep that she is more famous than I’ll ever be. But outside my depression chamber the internet will keep on functioning like it does every day.
Putting such an obvious fabrication as the headline of your story makes me unwilling to believe anything else you have to say. Same thing when you say you’re going to blow my mind, or restore my faith in humanity, or make me vomit in pure joy.
I understand you’re trying to get people interested in your article enough to click on it by making wild claims, but stop. Use whatever writing skills you have to make the actual story enticing enough to click on. If your content is good, people will go to it. Otherwise you come across as a desperate, lying dick.