Freedom, empathy, and control. The 3 techniques bloggers use to draw you in.
Much of the internet-osphere is vying for your attention. This blog being no exception (full disclosure.) What it really comes down to is the web wants to motivate you to do something. Click-here, buy-this, or sign-up-for-that!
The more I’ve delved into the world of content creation (Read: putting stuff on websites to look at,) the more I start to notice just how others in the field are trying to get money out of me. Hint: It’s usually a link to some other web location that gives the sending blog owner a cut, or it’s an online store selling something. Now, there is nothing wrong with this at all, especially if you feel good making clicks and buying the stuff. Essentially this is all a business of attention.
Fuller disclosure: This site isn’t selling much of anything right now. Our current long play is simply to build trust and value so that later you (the reader) will buy our future high-quality farm products.
But anyway, today I’m not concerned with money. This is about getting the free value out of a system designed to suck you in… just like Ho-Hos and the binge-watched 6 seasons that take a Herculean effort to pull yourself away from, what inputs you experience are going to determine behavioral outcomes. Put simply, garbage-in garbage-out.
The value in outdoor websites is often freely given, you just have to see the best trees in the forest, and find them you will, most likely coupled with something meant to distract you. What is ultimately more important is knowing just which technique other people are using to captivate you, the consumer. These techniques boil down to 3 main categories and an infinite array of combinations thereof; Freedom, Empathy, and Control.
Hint: The freedom part is the one to take away from any site; leave most of the rest.
Humans naturally want to make their own choices and blaze their own trails. If someone tells you how to do this in a way that you are capable of, it’s likely you will give them some attention.
There is a certain amount of altruism that is inherent in the vast majority of us. But it’s measured on a spectrum ranging from pretty high (think Jesus) to pretty low (Charles Ponzi.) Mostly, content creators using this strategy will try to appeal to your sense of right and wrong with regards to fellow humans.
It’s tougher to dominate people in modern society. Ancient controllers (masters) would simply tie you up or fence you in and leave a list of tasks needing completion so as to avoid severe punishment. Modern times have given rise to more creative methods, think of political special interests and debt. Most internet-sponsored control takes the form of addictive pictures or words giving you, the viewer, that next mental rush.
Ultimately, most website owners will try to combine these selling points. (See the diagram for an example of how this all works out.)
Of course, I’m partial to the middle-of-the-road strategy. After all, you do want as many bases covered as possible… As a savvy modern consumer, your job is to sort the BS from the fertilizer so to speak. The most concerning controlling elements will be subtle and usually come with a positive spin.
More important to remember, most of us have an unlimited capacity for freedom. That is… until said freedom becomes self-destructive.
Empathy would be wonderful if boundless, but alas compassion fatigue is probably real, so you will only want to take on as much as you can handle.
In the end, look for targeted empathy, take in as much freedom as you can handle, and only let yourself get “controlled” when it feels good!
This post was written by Nick Schmitz, March 2021.