When I write a blog post the title is often the last thing I create and I often find my inspiration in Betteridge’s Law. The law states that ‘any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no’. So, if you got this far into this blog post then you’ll probably chuckle at the headline of this post. You smarty pants, you.
Yesterday I wrote a blog post about some spiritual researchers who believe that gay people are possessed and I used the provocative title ‘are gay people possessed by ghosts?‘, the answer to which is obviously “no”. However, some people have been outraged that I would do such a thing. The Society for Psychical Research kindly shared the post on their Facebook page and people have been commenting there in anger.
One reader said of the post, ‘it’s offensive ignorant and has undertones of the Christian extremist vibe running through it – one of the worst pieces I have ever read here’.
That is the first time I have ever been described as a Christian extremist and I didn’t even have to picket any abortion centres. People have also suggested that the title of this post is click bait. My argument is that it isn’t clickbait and you won’t believe why…
I have always struggled to find titles for my blog posts that are catchy and not boring and a while ago I decided to start using provocative blog post titles for a number of reasons:
- I want to draw people to my site to read what I have written (surprising, I know)
- I like to challenge perceptions and misconceptions people hold
- People react without reading past headlines and I think they should stop doing that
- I refuse to cater my writing to people who are too lazy to read past headlines
- I like trolling people this way. It makes me feel warm inside.
I have watched on numerous occasions as people on Social Media sites create a wave of outrage about something somebody has written without first seeking the context within which is was written. I should clarify that this has never happened to me, but I’ve always found such irrational behaviour frustrating to observe. Not only is such reactionary behaviour irrational, it can actually be harmful in cases where the outrage leads to real-world consequences for the person being targetted. I thoroughly recommend reading Jon Ronson’s ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’ which looks as some aspects of this.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture where people feel as though they have to go out of their way to not be offensive. What they’re doing or saying probably wouldn’t have offended anybody anyway, but we self-censor just in case. And if you do offend somebody, that person often feels as though their offence should be catered to – that someone should pay for their feelings being hurt. I refuse to participate in this game.
That a blog post with a title that asks a question such as ‘are gay people possessed by ghosts?’ could cause outrage is hilarious considering that in the very post beneath it I explain why such an idea is wrong and how exorcism can be harmful. I’m also LGBT myself, so… yeah.
I will continue to use blog post titles that are provocative and attention grabbing for as long as people react before reading the post. It’s amusing, it makes people read the post and maybe learn something new which is the intention. If your short attention span produces reactionary outrage that isn’t justified then that really is your problem.