Angry and Viral: Are You Crazy Mad Yet?

BreakingModern — There’s a lot on the Internet: Causes that are trying to raise money for other causes, ads for apps that ask you to download apps, constant pop-ups trying to get you to order razors (or is that just me?), cat GIFs, babies making faces …

And underlying all of it is the constantly churning social stream. Social media is a constant. It’s ever changing. It also is usually pretty much the same. And it is always a barrage.

CGP Grey, a YouTube channel (and man of great mystery), has made a video about the emotional ramifications of this constant barrage and the currency it carries. With 1,200,106 video views and 1,685,487 followers at the time of this writing, Grey is certainly able to push out an idea.

Grey likens each of those barrages — any image or call to action or click-bait — to a sneeze, and every time your brain takes in that sneeze it suffers some form of emotion (like your body would suffer a runny nose). And the more times you share the thing, the more the sneeze-bait duplicates, and procreates as viral sensations.

Video: This Video Will Make You Angry

Grey based his video on a study by Jonah A. Berger and Katherine L. Milkman at the University of Pennsylvania called “What Makes Online Content Viral?,” which examines virality as a psychological behavior among humans. Pretty interesting, right?

Anger, Anger!

The study (and Grey’s video) concludes that out of all the emotional triggers that can push viral content, anger is the most effective. And that really is true. Divisive issues and content seem to evoke this insane, anger-spewing part of humanity that is splayed all across the Internet.

Think of #thedress. No, I don’t want to start a debate (but already your mind defended which color you see!) — the reason that post went viral, and was so successful, was because it enraged us that someone could see the world differently than we do. If the dress looks different, what else might? The sunset? Your hair? The color of someone’s skin?

Another great example (because Grey didn’t give many real-world examples) is the ongoing vaccination debate. Do you, don’t you? Should I, shouldn’t I? BMod wrote a piece about it, Jimmy Kimmel did a bit on it.

Video: Jimmy Kimmel’s Update on the Anti-Vaccination Discussion

Vaccinations are up in the air, but more than figuring out what is the right course of action, people are spreading countless articles over the Internet and imbibing them in a serious fit of anger. Which besides being ironic (you know, viral content about vaccinations), is pretty pointless and polarizes, rather than help find effective solutions.

The dangerous part of all this, and I think Grey’s video could have hammered this home, is that companies who sell us things want viral content. And if divisive, rage-inducing content happens to be the most viral, then we can bet on thinly-guised, advertising-driven topics that aim to enrage us enough to remember the company and eventually purchase its product.

I don’t want to be mad, do you?

For BMod, I’m Daniel Zweier.

Featured Image: Angry Tiger by Gyon Morée via Flickr Creative Commons

Header Image: Angry Woebots taken by A Syn via Flickr Creative Commons

Daniel Zweier

Author: Daniel Zweier

Based in Oakland, Daniel Zweier covers culture, travel and tech here at BreakingModern. Follow him on Twitter @dbzweier and on G+ at +DanielZweier

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