Shower thought: Hate and Anger Sells!

If you want readers start pissing off and provoking people…

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Nobody likes being hated. We like to be understood. And so when we make youtube videos or write stories, we eagerly write things like: “this is just my thoughts and opinions. You may have had a different experience.”

A lot of people tend begin their youtube videos by basically apologizing for having an opinion which others may not share. Actually it kind of pisses me off. This is sometimes some of the kindest most empathetic people, giving very balanced views. Yet they still get shit from social media commenters.

Ironically, if you want a lot of viewers or readers trying to be super balanced is not a receipt for success. The more I read stuff on Medium or watch youtube videos I realize that people really like to click on things that they strongly agree with or which pisses them off. There is a big market for people who hate read your stories or hate watch you videos. They will post angry responses to what you wrote, but at the end of the day they consumed your content and potentially added income and maybe even further views.

I freely admit I am like that myself. Hey, nobody is perfect. Based on everything I have read, I really don’t like Robin DiAngelo and her White Fragility book. I cannot help getting tempted to actually read the damn book. And there is a dilemma. I am risking giving money and free advertisement to a book I really don’t like. In fact I just did, because I if you read my article I have already given free advertisement to Robin DeAngelo.

Now you will also get tempted to read it. Maybe you also read the reviews and decide you really hate it as well, but you don’t feel comfortable bloviating in social media about what a terrible book it is, because you haven’t actually read it. Hence you are tempted to get the book. Oh, the agony.

Actually you should resist the temptation and instead get Angela Saini’s book Superior: The Return of Race Science, which is actually a very well written book on race, not written by a self flagellating white person, but a science educated British-Indian women.

Anyway, back to the central topic. If you keep up with medium, youtube or any social media and look at what gets recommended to you. It tends to be stuff that is in your face. Why? Because that sells. Either because people who really like that somebody is “telling it as it is,” or people who click on the story to “find out what garbage this is!”

Either way, mission accomplished. You got readers. Everybody is happy. Except you get some angry comments, and we humans don’t like that. Donald Trump is a curious case of this. He has built is brand and his career by being in your face. He gets attention and coverage because he is provocative, insulting. People who like him are going to go “Ah, finally somebody saying the offensive stuff I would have loved to tell me detractors.” while those opposed will foam at the mouth in anger. Either way, mission accomplished. Infamy, clicks, newspaper headlines etc generate.

But what is puzzling about all of this, is that at the same time as provocation is Trump’s came, you can really sense that all he really wants is to be loved and adored. It angers him that people don’t love him. That they don’t give him credit or complements.

What to make of all of this? I sometimes reflect on this when I am writing my views on technology and politics. E.g. when I write about something I don’t like about the Python programming language, you can bet I get some angry responses. Python developers are very passionate about their language of choice. I don’t blame them. I am also very passionate about my technology of choice whether that is a Mac, or the Julia programming language. Nothing wrong with having passions.

As a writer though, the question is, how many would care about reading what I write if I only expressed bland opinions, desperate to not offend anybody? Is it better to just piss some people off, and simply accept that you cannot please everybody?

I am always reminded of Steve Job’s response to an insult at WWDC in 1997, where he gave a quote:

I think we just have to accept this. We cannot pile disclaimers upon disclaimers. It would suck all the joy out of not only writing but also out of reading.

It is tempting to go all Trump, and write one inflammatory article after the other to gain clicks. But I have principles and will not do that. However I will probably stop being so concerned about whether somebody will get upset by what I write. I will instead try to be true to my beliefs.

What do you all think? Does anyone want to share their thoughts on how they want authors to write? Do you want it more bland, less opinion, more gray less chance of getting upset or provoked?

Written by

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.

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