Being in the publishing business, I'm always interested to know what draws people in to reading a story—and better yet, to share it.
This article in the New Yorker however, not only provided some insight, I believe it issued a challenge as well: a challenge to make the world a more positive place, because that is really what people want.
So what makes stories go viral? In a nutshell:
. . . two features predictably determined an article’s success: how positive its message was and how much it excited its reader.To a certain extent, I'm not surprised. Who doesn't like to share good news? We are surrounded enough by negativity that positive messages evoke some sort of reaction in us that makes us want to help someone else feel better. We love to be inspired and we love to laugh. It's why human interest, triumph-over-tragedy stories in lifestyle magazines are so popular. It may also be why, over the past years, I've deliberately turned off Facebook notifications from friends who have a tendency to take on a "woe is me, everyone is out to get me, I am so angry with the world" attitude in their posts.
Of course, there are a few other additional factors to what makes stories go viral, such as:
- something that makes people feel that they’re not only smart but in the know
- we share what we’re thinking about—and we think about the things we can remember, so things like lists are awesome
- "People love stories. The more you see your story as part of a broader narrative, the better"
I believe that a lot of what we see, read and immerse ourselves in can have an impact on our perspective on the world. So if we immerse ourselves in negative thoughts, negative behaviour, negative narratives, we tend to see the world as a nasty, horrible place filled with terrible people who are only out to hurt and harm us.
It's no wonder the Bible advises, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Philippians 4:8).
But we are not only responsible for our own mental wellbeing with what we read, we are just as responsible for other people's mental wellbeing with what we produce. And we are all content producers in one way or another, even if it's just a 140-character Twitter post.
Want to make the world a better place? Think, be, write positive.