Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Click Baiting - When Authors Go Bad: Part 1

Today's post is on a seemingly innocent internet occurrence: the click bait headline. But when an author posts a negative announcement to the world, are they using freedom of speech or inciting a verbal riot for engagement. Over the next few weeks I will explore this topic. I'd love to hear your opinions.

Click Baiting - When Authors Go Bad: Part 1

The day George Michael died should have been a day of mourning for the loss of a singer, a secret philanthropist, someone's son, someone's brother, someone's lover. But a self-published author (I shall refer to her as Tammie) posted a comment on Facebook stating she was not sorry about George Michael's death together with an image from George's Twitter account stating how happy he was to be gay.


When the comments for Tammie's post flooded in, she quoted passages from the Bible and cited Christianity as the reason for her comments. Within a few threads, the comments back and forth were nasty attacks - those commenting cried foul and referring other bible quotes, Tammie claimed this was HER wall and HER opinions. Admittedly, these comments were posted on Tammie's personal Facebook page, but it didn't take long for the commenters to discover that Tammie wrote erotic fiction under a pseudonym.

 
Was such a post as this unbecoming of an author? What moral obligation do authors have to keep personal opinions to themselves? Or is there something else driving these types of threads?
 
These are questions I ask myself daily whenever I sit down to write a story with a political or moral issue that has the potential to start a discussion. The problem is when they don't start a discussion, instead they incite a verbal riot.

And then the question becomes, was the post intended to start a discussion or incite a verbal riot?

Tammie's tit-for-tat dialogue on social media can be considered click-baiting. It's where an author or blogger or anyone who wants to boost their social media profile posts a comment or an article about a contentious subject. The post or article has one clear goal - to incite good or bad comments, so long as there is 'engagement'. The new buzz word. Engagement is what social media is all about and some people are getting it anyway they can. Not always to this extent.

One innocuous way people are using this click-bait approach is to post a ridiculous comment such as "I bet nobody can think of a fruit beginning with R." Then we all rush to the keyboard, because of course we can name a fruit beginning with R. (Can't we? Should I Google this to be sure? Yes, I've Googled this and I know fruit that begins with R so who's a smarty-pants now. I am victorious. I have not been conned for I can smell manipulation from a mile away. So now I will become friends with this person, they are trustworthy because they I can outwit them.)
Okay, so this is possibly an exaggeration, but you get the idea. Manipulation is the name of the click-bait game. And some authors, desperate to gain a following, have taken to this ploy with great gusto. Then they wonder why they're losing followers or they're getting a bad name.

So how dangerous is click baiting to an author wanting a professional career? Will it work to gain readers? Or will it backfire and turn readers away?


 
Stay tuned for more on this topic. Coming in next week's blog:

Part 2 - Freedom of Speech
Part 3 - Social Repercussion

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