Is It Sad We Read Like This?

I read an article today that explained how to make a blog post go viral. It wasn’t a gimmick or a sales pitch. It actually explained the “science” behind viral written content.

It made me a little sad though. Why? Because the “trick” to viral blog content boiled down to scannable content and short sentences. Furthermore, a paragraph should never have more than three sentences.

The author explained that, in today’s world, we are having to fight for attention. We have a split second to catch someone’s eye, and we better make it as easy as possible for them to become engaged.

All of this is true.

I’m upset that it’s true. Internet writing has become so formulaic. I hate that we want to be spoon fed. I hate that it’s all about virality.

When I say these things though, I’m basically saying I hate myself. Because I’m a part of the problem. I’m a lazy internet reader who is trying to juggle a thousand different tabs.

I scan an article for quick take-aways. I am repelled by long paragraphs.

You Can Go Viral, but What’s the Cost?

The article I read yesterday was titled “How I Got 6.2 Million Pageviews and 144,920 Followers“. I clicked on it because it offered advice that I want. I want an audience, and I’m realizing how hard it can be to get peoples’ attentions in such a fast moving internet world.

I believe that I could write some truly viral posts if I adopted all of the advice in that article. I know I could.

But do I want to? I’m not really sure. It would mean changing the way I write. It would mean encouraging laziness and quick reading.

Call my crazy, but I wish we internet users didn’t have such short attention spans.

And here’s another thing: the spoon-feeding culture of the internet doesn’t translate into the real world. Life doesn’t work like a viral blog post. Life requires lots of time, patience, and effort.

And we can’t scan our way through life. It will ruin relationships and leave us unprepared for greater opportunities.

There’s a Lot of Truth Behind the Madness

Regardless of whether I like the trend or not, I do believe there are some valuable lessons to be learned from it. In fact, I’m writing this blog post using many of the pieces of advice that article gave me. Call it an experiment.

I learned that I need to be briefer. I shouldn’t use 4 sentences when 1 could do the job just as well.

I must consider my audience. If my goal is to attract readers, I have to be willing to meet them where they are.

I also need to realize that people don’t come online to read a book. Book writing and blog writing are EXTREMELY different, and it’s not a bad thing. It’s just the facts of life.

What Do We Really Want?

A lot of this boils down to motives. Is our goal virality and page hits? Or is it something else? Something better?

I’m trying to approach blogging the same way I view church. It’s not about the numbers; it’s about the lives impacted.

Sometimes the way to impact lives is to make things easy for people. Other times we have to challenge them.

As a writer, I face the reality that if I don’t write for my reader, I often won’t have any readers. I think the secret to all of this is in the balancing act.

Here Are Some Steps We Can take

Write to reach your audience where they are, but don’t go so head-over-heels. Produce good writing and share great ideas, but don’t water it down and encourage the spoon-feeding.

Don’t go along with the click-baiting. Write blog titles that are worthy of being clicked on, but don’t go so far that it becomes a game of cat and mouse.

As readers, lets takes steps towards pay attention. Let’s grow up and reject being spoon fed.

Ultimately, blog writing is an art that is uniquely distinct from all other forms of writing. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing that the trend is what it is. I’m just having a hard time accepting and adopting.

What are your thoughts? I’m still thinking all of this through.

Is it sad that we read online content like this?

Originally published at on March 14, 2015.

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