Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I Was Both Amazed and Left Stunned and Speechless By What Happened Next.

"You won't believe what happened next."

I just about hate those words now. Scanning through my Facebook feed, I almost lost count of how many times they popped up.

At what point did the internet decide collectively to begin to use this formula centering around the three words "what happened next"? The formula consist of a) a situation introduced ("This mom surprised her high schooler at lunch"), b) a "power adjective" (stunned, speechless, amazed, etc) and c) "what happened next." I'm sure you've seen it.

It evokes a visceral reaction in me, and since I've noted its arrival, it has guaranteed that, no matter how intriguing the subject material is, I WILL NOT CLICK ANY LINK WHICH INCLUDES THIS VERBIAGE. I just won't.

It's probably my issue. I have a deep-seated fear of being manipulated, and I think I may react strongly to anything I see as a possible attempt to coerce me into a certain action, no matter how innocuous it might be. But really, my objection is that it's simply a cheap way out. If one can't think of a creative way to hook people in to watch a video or peruse a link, one can fall back on a formula which (assuming from its over-usage) has success.

I admit, I feel a pull on my curiosity when I see the words. Who doesn't want to know what happened next? Isn't that why TV season finales always end on cliffhangers? The power of curiosity and the desire for closure and resolution is so strong. But it's that very pull on my curiosity that makes me despise the words. I despise my own reaction to them, wishing that my natural desire to know "what happened next" could be curbed. I hate being manipulated. Don't trick me into watching your cat video by tempting me to find resolution. I was happy without knowing "what happened next" five minutes ago; I will be happy not knowing "what happened next" five minutes from now.

There's my curmudgeony moment of the day.



  1. I must be a curmudgeon too, then! I feel the same way about emotional hooks. ~Morlene

  2. My guess is that much of it is generated by the content "industry." But I don't know how many of the "viral farm" sites (distractify, viralnova, etc) are ends to themselves or whether some are fronts to gain clicks elsewhere. But yes... it's awful. I heard Facebook was beginning to tweak their curating formula to cut down on it.