Is Click Bait Completely Evil?

Click the image to read this on the CANDiGRAM site

Is click bait inherently evil? Am I a manipulative person? Am I patronising my viewers? All of this and more is up for grabs in this weeks exciting CANDiBLOG

This thing of starting an ongoing online presence on my chosen subject of Love Activism is, amongst other things, frightening me, especially since responses have started to come in. I’m laying myself open, making myself vulnerable.

Of course I am.

That is the only way this project could have any authenticity and credibility. And I’m sure it’s in the interactions, the discussions, between me and you, and you and each other, that the greatest potential of CANDiGRAM lies. And it’s good for me to keep reminding myself of that because, so far, I’m repeatedly being given opportunities to choose between running to my bedroom and hiding under the quilt or breathing the fear in, letting it be present, and then continuing…

It’s been less than a month and I have had a real mixed bag of feedback: a goodly amount of positive, which helps my morale no end, but edgier stuff too. Friends have warned me I’m opening myself to ridicule; they’ve expressed concerns that I can come across as patronising and manipulative, particularly in theCANDiGRAMS; I’ve had a number of unimpressed, dismissive comments on the facebook page. So, yeah…I wish to pause…breathe all of that in…pause again…breathe it all out…and then respond, rather than react…

The concern about me being manipulative is particularly on my mind, so I’ll look at that first.

There are are couple of things I’ve done through CANDiGRAM recently that have been consciously manipulative on my part. The first one is that I have made a deliberate decision to start using provocative titles in conjunction with eye-catching images in order to elicit clicks from as many people as possible when I make a post.

I know! It feels painfully edgy to me to admit it, but it’s true: I am deliberately generating that dreaded thing — CLICK BAIT!

Now, there’s a big irony in this because I have such a loathsome reaction to so much of the click bait that says “Hello” to me online…

“Look at these celebrities who used to be attractive, and see how hideous they are now!” and that sudden, modern classic, “…watch to the end because you won’t believe what happens next!” Oh, my gosh! I really do have to take a breath when I see these, to give myself space to decline the invitation to feel nauseous and angry. And we know that actually clicking on one of them will lead us to a page filled with enough click bait to crash our systems.

And yet, here I am creating click bait myself. What on earth could be my justification?

The reason is very simple and obvious. It’s the exact same reason that all of the other click baiters do it: because I wish to reach as many people as I can. A marketing friend of mine explained to me that THE. MOST. POWERFUL. STRATEGY. For getting people to click on a post is a compelling title coupled with an eye-catching image. Hence the phenomenon of click bait. Hence the title and image of this very post. And sure enough, I look at the analytics for my CANDiGRAM facebook page and they support the truth of that advice.

I wish my posts to reach as many people as possible. I am not creating them in the hope that a handful of friends will click “Like,” move on and forget about them, leaving CANDiGRAMs and CANDiBLOGs to gather dust and sink into the void. Yet, if there is a difference between my click bait and the click bait that I dislike, it is simply that I care about the content I am creating — Love Activism means a lot to me — rather than being focussed solely on getting your money off you.

It is true that I do wish to make money through CANDiGRAM, but I wish to make that money through Gift Economy: people who find genuine value in my content saying, “Yes, I am appreciating this! I want this guy to continue producing it so much that I’m willing to make a contribution.” And I will not get such patrons by making them sorry that they clicked on my posts. I’ll only achieve this by making sure that my content is nourishing and rewarding in some way. So, yes…I am endeavoring to create healthy, nourishing click bait that serves the world rather than hollow and unsatisfying junk food that’s going to kill it. How successfully I achieve this endeavor: well, time will tell.

But I hope that those of you who also have heartfelt contributions that you wish to make to the world, contributions that are designed to serve the planet, the animals, the health of the human race, whether it be through some form of activism or creative expression or whatever, manage to reach as many people with your hearty contribution as possible. I wish that for you. And I urge you to consider the formula of: compelling title plus eye-catching image, if you don’t wish the nourishing gift you are offering to sink beneath a sea of junk food.

Ok, that’s me and my click bait. I’m looking forward to your comments (kind of). Onto the next confession of conscious manipulation…

Quite a number of people have expressed a reaction to “CANDiGRAM#2 — Why People Are More Beautiful Than They Realise.” In particular the opening section of this video has caused a certain amount of understated controversy, where I use footage from a previous film project, of friends of mine being interviewed, and I’ve edited that footage into an entirely new context of my own devising in order to achieve an artistic/emotional effect. More than one person turned the video off before reaching the end, because they knew the footage was out of context and felt it was manipulative, and even disrespectful, on my part.

This feels like weighty stuff to me. I’ll explain my rationale and intentions as best I can.

CANDiGRAM#2 is split into four acts.

The First (and offending) Act contains unnamed people in an unnamed context saying random things while I provide an intermittent voiceover describing how people, in general, find it difficult to recognise their own worth.

Act 2 explains that I made a film called John’s Gone, and in order to elicit convincing performances from inexperienced actors we guided them through a visualisation of having a strange experience, and then we immediately put them in front of the camera and interviewed them about it.

Act 3 returns to the footage of my friends in interview, but this time the viewer understands that they are actors and that the footage has been taken from a previous project and reused by me.

Act 4 is a sequence of text in which I talk about the value of self love and acknowledge that it isn’t necessarily that easy to achieve.

Now, the conscious manipulation on my part — and one of the main things that people have objected to — is that I wilfully allow new viewers to believe that these are real people in real interviews saying real things, and that I went ahead and put this together without consulting the actors involved. Ok, so I’ll deal with the first part of that quickly so I can look in more detail at the second part, which is really the bigger issue…

Yes, I allow new viewers to assume that the footage is authentic reportage rather than acted fiction (at the beginning of the video), and I do so for dramatic effect. Yes, this is manipulative of me, just as it was when I used the footage in the original project, John’s Gone. I’m wilfully playing with the perceptions of the viewer and pretty much all film and video does this in some form or other. Yes.

The main issue though, is that the actors performed their interviews for a project that they were informed about, while I have reused the footage in a project that they were not informed of.

Yes, this is an edgy thing for me to have done. And maybe it was a mistake on my part.

Where I was coming from when I did this was: the good folk who agreed to be inJohn’s Gone had a certain amount of faith, knowing me as they do, that I would produce something that was worthwhile and that they could feel good about being a part of. And in doing that they were hoping, as was I, that John’s Gone, and their performances, would reach a good sized audience and not languish in a forgotten corner of the internet. Now John’s Gone, so far, has done exactly that. It did survive for a decent length of time on the long list of one of the festivals it was entered into, but ultimately it was not selected for any film festivals. I felt upset by this, because I am proud of that film and I’m doubly proud of the performances of the people in it. I felt so sorry that what they achieved was not going to be seen by a properly sized audience and that has stayed with me. When the idea of resurrecting the footage for use in CANDiGRAM#2 occurred to me I saw multiple virtues in it…

Their performances could bring life and texture to a video that I felt carried a worthwhile message.

Their performances could be showcased and their time, energy and goodwill, honoured.

CANDiGRAM#2 could encourage more people to watch John’s Gone.

It’s true that I recognised the way I was manipulating audience perception at the beginning of the new video, but I trusted that by the end of the video all would be explained and all would be well, and new viewers would hopefully have a real appreciation for the performances of these inexperienced actors who, at the start, didn’t appear to be acting at all! I was actually very proud of this approach, and in doing it I felt that I was giving the work of my friends the chance of a new lease of life. These friends of mine took part in John’s Gone because they wanted their performances to be a helpful contribution, and they wanted their performances to be seen.

So with the best of intentions I went ahead and resurrected their performances for a new project. Aye, under ideal circumstances, it would have been a good idea, perhaps a vital idea, to finish the video and then send it to them all to make sure that I had their blessing. I didn’t have time and simply trusted that they would appreciate where I was coming from, because they know me and I know them.

And yes, in retrospect I have to admit that this was probably a mistake on my part. If any of the John’s Gone cast do feel upset in any way I apologise unreservedly and hope that you hear what I’ve said in the above. Please contact me and let me know your feelings.

Ok, I’ll move on from that subject now, but all comments and feedback from anybody who would like to say something are welcome, whether you’re reading this in a newsletter, on the facebook page or on the CANDiBLOG itself.

The final piece of feedback I’d like to respond to is that CANDiGRAM#2 is patronising to people who are already familiar with the ideas in it. This is a tricky one. I don’t ever want to come across as patronising. Finding the perfect tone for these kinds of videos feels like a fine balancing act to me. I really would like people to understand that the things I say in CANDiGRAM, the blogs and videos, are things that I really feel I need to tell myself. If they seem excessively simplistic it’s not because I am trying to talk down to anybody. It’s actually that I’m talking at the level of my own understanding which, admittedly, may well be lower than the level of understanding of the people reading or viewing. So, my best defence against the charge of being patronising is that I’m actually being the opposite! I’m being my own simple-minded self. I AM simple minded. No matter what deep and profound (to me) subject that I like to explore, I always try to find the simplest way of understanding it. That is just what works for me.

I am learning, learning, learning. These are early days and this project feels ambitious to me. I’m hoping that as time goes by I consolidate my learning, raise my performance to new levels and then continue learning. The great thing about an interactive and ongoing project like this is that I have time to evolve my delivery, and I have feedback from those of you who are engaged enough and lovely enough to talk to me and join in discussions.

I don’t think of myself as some guru. I think of myself as somebody who has something to contribute, even if it’s only his mistakes. I think of every person on the planet as somebody who has something to contribute. But there’s not much point in me saying that to all of you unless I’m willing to do it myself. I would like so much to see everybody everywhere, who wishes to express themselves, feeling the strength or courage or simple okayness within themselves to do so.

So that’s me.

If you’ve made it all the way down here you may as well leave a comment.

And watch John’s Gone.

And watch CANDiGRAM#2

And join my Mailing List.

And consider supporting me.

Unless of course you’ve already done all of that. In which case, thank you :) x

I had an online interaction yesterday that made me laugh.

The day before I “boosted” one of the posts on my CANDiGRAM page, the one about today’s young generation being the best one so far. I spent £4 so that facebook would send it further afield than my immediate network of friends. A guy, I assume is American, posted a reply. Rightly or wrongly, I like to imagine what he said in a thick Texan accent:

Jay:

Today’s generation is destroying the human race, no respect for others, they don’t like someones choice they just kill ya, think everything is free, lazy as hell, they’d die if they really had to work so your doomed

Me:

Aye, well we’re all doomed, Jay, that’s for sure. You having a good day? x

Jay:

Having a grand old day