In online marketing / advertising, we call the motivating factor in our messaging a Call To Action. It's the most important element and urges you to do things for us that align with the goals we track. This premise is harmless and just how things work. We need to ask things in order for people to do something - it’s simple.
This biological hack into our reactionary lizard brain combined with a system that preferences profit generation > human well-being, has some issues.
Here's how it works:
- First, you deeply understand your target audience,
- Next, you find where they go online,
- Then you witness their habits and what motivates them,
- Finally, A/B test until your goals are met most efficiently
Some of your may remember this from Online Marketing 301 or Psychology 101.
You may have noticed none of my emails have said you need to buy our clothes because not doing so will kill all of your friends (well.. at least not seriously). That would be unethical. Honestly, I probably should so I can hire more people but regardless that's one hellova a call to action! Here's where we are with the progression of Call to Actions commonly found on the front-page of Reddit:
Better HURRY and VOTE OR ELSE!
First, let me be clear, that this is not a political post. This is a marketing psychology awareness post. It’s unfortunate that politics have creeped into everything, so don’t blame me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
It doesn't matter if you're Democratic, Republican, Independent, Vegan, from Vegas, into dudes that bang other dudes, like dressing in your imaginary sister's clothes, are on a strict Keto diet, or anything else - this is a common problem for all of us if we recognize what it actually is, who is paying for this to be in front of you, and why they have financial incentive to do so.
Be honest with yourself here... before you read the next set of questions, consciously decide to be truthful with yourself in the privacy of your own head:
- Do you ever stop and question who’s posting this stuff?
- Are you okay with how they’re spending money to shape public opinion towards?
- Is there a correlation between this and the divided citizenry? How about the mental health of the average individual?
Screenshot from the front page of /r/all on Reddit.
Noticethat they want you to fight against our perennial generation. These people are our fathers, mothers, and someone's child. They have hopes and dreams just like you. They gave thetrue gift of life to us. In the words of the late great Elon Musk ...most people are good.
Does this need to be said more? Most people are good.
As a rational person, I decided that I don't need this influence in my life but sadly the front page of Reddit disagrees - which effects millions of minds every day. Who wants you to vote so bad that they're willing to consume our well-being en masse to accomplish it? Maybe it's not even political but Nymag.com just doing it for that sweet ad revenue? Me thinks desperation has taken control. Me also thinksI have some good news too...
You remember that ol' wives tale, The Boy Who Cried Wolf?
For our younger audience, internationals, and people whose parents had two jobs to make things work, I'll boil it down. A kid notices every time he screams "THERE'S A WOLF!", the entire community reacts. He likes this because it gives him attention and power. Over time, however, no one believed him anymore. He was ignored.
Enter the scene: a real wolf.
The boy is confronted by a monster and does what any loud mouth would do - he screams and hollers - and no one cares. The little boy turns into wolf food and everyone else lives better ever after. From a modern perspective, the central message is this:
Although yelling about a known fear may rouse your neighbors, giving you that glorious attention and power you so desperately desire, continued yelling about false problems will end in your repulsion from the community. And, being alone as a human ends in your untimely death.
Lucky for us, there is one simple trick that will disproportionately help you see through the propaganda. It results in the development of a nuanced opinion on these things and helps build strong character traits. Here it is:
Breath and allow things to pass.
There is a skill in the practice of mindfulness you can develop called “noting”. It involves simply making a non-judgement (soft) mental note when you see something that feels questionable. The more you do this, the more you become aware of and act more in alignment towards what you inherently believe to be true. It’s freeing.
The ingredients we need to get back on track as a society and be individually happier are simple. We want to be acknowledged as useful by others, we want opportunity and potential for growth, we want safety and wellness, and several more that people are barely even aware of - like maintaining your innocent fun side, staying curious, the joy of genuine humility, and maintaining a relationship with nature.
Thankfully, most of what you need to feel and be better is already in your head. All of our perspectives and thoughts contain a binary decision to be positive or negative. The skill described above, called “noting”, arms you with the tools necessary to actively make more positive decisions.
As anyone that has followed this brand may know, my interactions online were not always positive. I represented a lot of extremes and normalized modes of being. I honestly feel I contributed to the way the internet is right now. I was on the cutting edge of cynicism.
It may be hard to be positive at first but it’s worth it. A wandering mind will get in the way but it is something you can develop awareness of and begin to control. Awareness is a skill after all, and like any other skill, you should expect to suck at it to begin with but with effort you will learn and grow.
If you're looking for a place to start, check out Sam Harris'new meditation app orHeadspace.