Monday, March 30, 2015

Internet of Emotions

The world is driven  by emotions. In the Internet, the emotions are further exaggerated. Many articles, videos, and posts are created with the interest of invoking the emotions. While a politically correct and perfect title may be ideal for a school essay, even the major news providers and bloggers have chosen catchy titles, which are often unethical and misleading for their articles.

I never subscribed to any of these "influencers" in LinkedIn. Rather, I am "forced" to read them. These are two of the posts I found in LinkedIn today from the "Influencers". I clicked both of them out of curiosity.

1. If You're 30 And Don't Know This, You're In Trouble
2. How To Prevent Heartbreak From A Less Qualified Person Being Promoted

Here you may notice, the title 1 is just intended to derive your curiosity. It does not have a proper audience. In fact, the article itself lacked value. Its intent was just to get more audience, and probably it has succeeded in that. The latter title is more open, but still good enough to attract the right audience. In a world driven by clicks and revenue, it is obvious what these articles want. 

More viewers means, more visibility. More visibility means, more revenue. I have seen many existing videos in YouTube rehashed with some random content and catchy title. A sample would be, "These man/woman was asked to X. His/Her response was AWESOME". or "He did X to Y. What happened next is Incredible". Something like that to make you curious to see what happened next. Commoner examples in LinkedIn is, "Solve this, if you are a genius" followed by an elementary quiz or question which can practically be solved by anyone with a little knowledge. The more user engagement gives these stupid posts an uplifting, making the Internet "polluted".

Talking these unethical headlines to next level, I read so many blog posts writing headlines such as "Strong evidence on what happened to MH370 has been found!" while the content just provided some existing known uncertain information. Even giving a negative comment discouraging future readers will boost the popularity of these posts in the social circle, as many of the social media strive on not having a negative voting.

It is hard to get views with a politically correct and moderate values in the Internet. Shocking and extreme views easily get the attraction, just that they are capable of breaking our indifference. Recent example was a woman posted her photo visibly stained menstruating herself in her period, to Instagram in public view settings. As expected, it was removed by the Instagram, respecting the community guidelines. Her intention may be just to get some views to her blog posts. Probably she had some good intention - that is by creating a shock value, passing on the message she wanted us to listen on feminism and freedom of media.

In the very business-oriented world, this woman has successfully created a shock value and made her blog and book popular. While I am 100% supportive of freedom of speech and expression, feminism, and all that, it is hard for me not to question the motives. Sharing a photo of this nature does not prove or solve anything. While Instagram apologized mentioning that was a mistake on their side, I believe they were right in removing it from their site according to their own policies. However, it was smart of them to restore it mentioning that that was a mistake to remove the photo. It avoids further social media damage or wasting of time on this from their end. In my opinion, removal of this photo was not misogyny. Rather, just their community standards. They would have removed a boy with a visible stain suggesting he had a wet dream as well. I don't blame her for that. Just stating my opinion. However, to some extent, taking similar extreme stances such as this woman just alienates feminism from the mainstream. 

The Instagram issue was the one which made this photo popular. It was surely not a 'mistake'; rather they (Instagram) intentionally removed it and undid that when they realized the backfire. If I am not wrong, this photo was shared with public visibility, and most probably someone reported it (I don't think Instagram, Facebook, et al. go on monitoring each upload). I am not sure about the age limit of Instagram. Is it 18+ or 13+ like Facebook? How are they effective in really setting these limits? A parental filter may not filter Instagram (nor this image) and chances are high Instagram would be listed as a trusted site by the parents. This may cause shock for an underage kid, as young as 11 something (they are active users of the Internet now).

I don't find mistake in her photo. Not in Instagram for removing the photo either. Just could not fail to notice the potential business-motive in the photo from her end, and the smart move from Instagram's end by restoring it without causing more social media stir.
The Internet of emotions is so strong that there are so many incidents reported where a photo or post online caused much trouble beyond the online world. Employers do not want to get involved in controversies. While individuals may be happy with whatever the attention they receive, positive or negative, it may not be the case for a large organization or a country. I am not sure about the support and consequences these individuals receive from their companies, if they are affiliated to any.

Another recent example was a feminism video with a popular Indian actress portrayed. Again, it exhibited much more extreme thoughts, specially considering the fact that the video is coming from a much conservative India. While a moderate and commonly acceptable video may be well-received by a larger audience, it would not create such a hype. Negative or positive, the comments in social media add up. There should be a way of demoting the videos we dislike. But it is not available in many platforms. Even if you comment, "This video sucks", that will still increase the popularity of the content, with your engagement. This is one reason why I avoid commenting on spams, as much as I can. Interestingly, that video was an advertisement or placement video by a media. Not by the actress herself. The magazine/media was successful in getting the reach they wanted.

I was once blocked by a Sri Lankan, upon mocking a preacher on his misogynistic views. The Internet expects us to be tolerant of all kind of trolls, while not to offend anyone who has subscribed to any belief system. There is also a plenty of trolls that will always try to provoke you with their extreme views on topics such as politics, religion, or whatever, whether you align yourself with them or not.

I was going through a Facebook page, and found a comment. "Do a Google Search for XXXXX, and click the first video result. The singer has insulted the fans of this page. Go and dislike that video. Also subscribe to the channel, and dislike all the videos from the uploader". It turned out that the comments were made by the video uploader himself and his proxies. All his videos have 99% dislikes. But still they also have a million of views, and thousands of subscribers. Many of the viewers have identified his strategy. Still he has achieved what he wanted - views. Hence, the revenue from the advertisements, from Google. There are many web sites and blogs that force you to wait for a while, with an advertisement covering the page. Most of them even have a limited possibility of removing such advertisements.

In the Internet of emotions, invoking the curiosity and emotions of the viewers will produce more engagement - good or bad. Moderate views are less favoured by this environment, though I would prefer it otherwise.

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