But Then I Read An Article…

“But then I read an article…” A young mom is doing what comes naturally as far as taking care of her baby is concerned. It’s working for her and her family. Then she sees a comment made by another mommy whose opinion differs from hers. She begins to doubt her instincts. She starts googling the topic. She finds an article…the article that changes everything. She is now not so sure of herself, of her parenting skills, of her instinct. She begins to doubt. She begins to be stressed. She spends time that should be devoted to her family researching this topic that is beginning to consume her thoughts. She has a new obsession that has robbed her of her peaceful and calm life as doom looms overhead. All because she read an article.

This scenario happens way too often. Young moms seem to be especially affected by articles they read online. These articles may be legitimate or they may not. Anyone can put together a blog or a website and write anything. It looks authentic. After all, the blog was designed well. It sounds authentic. The author spoke with authority and quoted other authoritative sounding articles It must be authentic. Why would someone write something that is not true?

Young moms aren’t the only ones affected. Older folks are as well. How many times have I heard of a middle aged woman googling her latest symptoms only to find out that she has a dreaded disease? She had to dig pretty deep to get to the part of the article that said her life was about to end but she kept reading and found her diagnosis. It must be true because she “read an article.” Now she not only has to deal with whatever symptoms she really has, she must deal with the fear of the disease she thinks she has.

Why are there so many articles on the internet that cause us to question what we know to be true? Why are there so many articles on the internet that steal our joy, break down our confidence? Follow the money. Before taking advice from an article, dig a little into who is paying for the website or the blog. Ask the question, “Why does this blog exist?”

I was following one of these rabbit trails the other day. Something someone said on Facebook aroused my curiosity about a diet recommendation. It sounded like I would benefit from the “new finding”. I began to read. Between all those annoying ads that are found on most blogs, I found the source of the information. I read the original article and I was intrigued. I was pulled in. I was considering purchasing the miracle supplement that was being praised. After all, the author of the blog was a medical doctor.

Notice what I had to do to find the original source of the information I was seeking. I had to wade through ads. Someone was paying the blogger to advertise their product or service. Hmmmm… There is the incentive. The blogger is making money from her blog. That is not a bad thing, but it is an important thing to remember. Bloggers make money. Some of them make lots of money. They can only make money if readers visit their blog and then click on advertisements from their blog. Their goal, while initially is to impart information about whatever it is their blog is about, is also to make money.

They must write fresh, interesting content to keep readers interested in what they have to say. They must keep their readers on their blog as long as possible. Different methods are used.

  • Pictures help. A blog about food is much more interesting if there are beautiful pictures of the food being prepared.
  • Lists help. People like lists. Lists organize material so it can be processed without a whole lot of thinking on the reader’s part. Kind of like this list.
  • Controversy helps. Writing about something controversial can get readers who agree to stay longer, but controversies also encourage those who disagree to stay longer. Who doesn’t enjoy a good controversy?
  • Humor helps.  It’s much easier to read an article that includes some tasteful humor than to read something long and boring.
  • Keeping it personal helps.  Many bloggers write as if they are talking to their best friend across the table over a cup of coffee.  Although most writing skills are thrown out the window, they are very interesting to read.

All these techniques encourage the reader to stay longer, return again and again, and possibly even click on one of the ads.

Why do the ads matter?  We’re all probably pretty good at blocking them out as we scroll through an article.  Can’t they just be ignored?  Well, yes, but it’s good to know the motive behind a blogger’s choice of topics as well as the techniques used to keep you on the site.  The blogger wants you to come by for a visit.  The blogger wants you to stay long enough to possibly get interested in an ad and click through so the blogger will get paid.

There is another kind of article that lures us in.  These are not usually written bloggers who are depending on ads for their income.  These are written by the promoters of the products themselves.  The website I finally ended up on in my search I mentioned earlier was a website that promoted a dietary supplement.  Keep in mind the path I followed.  I started with something someone said on Facebook.  I went to the article and was intrigued.  I followed the link to  the original source where I was strongly encouraged to make a purchase.  I stayed on that website for quite a while.  I read everything there was about this product.  I learned that I would benefit tremendously from the supplement.  I learned that if I didn’t take the supplement my health would never be what it could be.  I was convinced but I didn’t click the “buy now” button.  I kept the window open and went to bed.  I would think about it again in the morning. After a good night’s sleep, I was able to make a good decision about the product.

Whether I bought the product or not is not important.  What is important is that I was lured in. I was tempted. I slept on it before making a decision.  I was initially following the path the manufacturer wanted me to follow. I was in the product’s demographic.  I went from a friend’s suggestion to a blogger’s incite to a medical doctor’s recommendation.  The only thing that was left to do in this case was to make the purchase.

The next time you find yourself stressed about an article you have read, or you find yourself about to push the “buy now” button, stop and think about the motive behind the author.   The article may be worthy of your time and consideration.  It may hold life changing information.  It may even promote a product that would be very helpful to you and your family.  That’s great.  By being aware of the motives you can make a better decision.

 

6 Comments

  1. Lori S. Biesecker

    I think another important thing to remember is that many people want to be a guru, and there are lots and LOTS of people who unconsciously want to find a guru. Some bloggers and influencers — terrible term — aren’t working for money; they are working for the rush they get from knowing they are directing people’s lives. For some of us, it is a heady feeling to realize people want to listen to you — it’s one of those things that can be channeled into giving wise counsel, but it can also be used just to give whatever counsel the current culture wants to hear.

    • Diana

      That’s a very good point. When I first began our website that sold home school curriculum online, I did a lot of research into how to make the website successful. One of the bits of advice I kept reading was to make yourself an expert in your field. People want to read something from an expert. There are two ways to do that. One is to gain the knowledge and experience from hard work and become a true expert. The other is to present yourself as an expert without having gone through all the work. There are both kinds out there. The job of the reader is to discern which is which.

Thank you for your comment.