By Chris Jeon
By now, we have all likely seen at least one mysteriously enticing headline from the news aggregation site Upworthy, which has recently seen a rapid increase in popularity. As it turns out, these headlines play an integral role in how the Upworthy team seeks to increase its “shareability,” which Upworthy’s editor Adam Mordecai claims is one of the site’s primary goals.
The basic premise behind this strategy is simple. Because nobody knows exactly what people find “share-worthy”, the Upworthy team searches for content that is meaningful in its eyes and repackages this content to arouse curiosity (through an ambiguously enticing headline), increase its visual appeal (through pictures/graphs/videos), and simplify the issue for the viewer. Upworthy also spends a fair amount of time optimizing its sharing compatibility with social media websites like Facebook and Twitter to provide an environment where optimal levels of sharing can occur.
When a person believes in something with a strong enough conviction, he/she will often go to certain lengths to reinforce that belief through whatever means necessary. To relate this problem back to Upworthy, the team tends to simplify its content for two main purposes: to make it easier for a wider audience to understand and to align it with its progressive/leftist ideals. A possible consequence of this simplification could manifest itself in the form of people using the content to “cherry pick” or employ the use of selective evidence to attempt to substantiate his/her beliefs. Prospective Upworthians must keep in mind that the website does hold biased opinions on many issues and that the way they are portrayed are not necessarily as cut and dried as Upworthy would like you to believe.
That is not to say that all of the content is like this. The first video that I viewed on this site, an eloquently narrated animation that spoke out against bullying, was the one that sparked my interest in Upworthy and ultimately inspired me to begin writing this article.
A team of people looking to relay their set of ideals to the world in a peaceful manner are well within their rights to do so; just be sure to follow up their claims with research of your own.
Chris is a first-year PEAK student at the University of Tokyo.