The Provocation Generation

Despite the fact that I’ve been writing for over a decade and a half, I’m still relatively new to leveraging social media in the endeavor. Doing so involves understanding how to communicate with the human collective, rather than with a single person or small group like most of us are accustomed to. The good news is that, once I get people to the point of reading my articles, they have generally found them impactful or at least moderately entertaining. The bad news?

The bad news is what it takes to get them there.

My most successful article thus far (mind you that I’m still working on a relatively small scale) was entitled, “Terrorist Generosity Gave me PTSD.” Doesn’t that seem a bit…provocative? Well, that’s the crux of my position.

In our world of extremes, people expect to be offended (or to defend an idea that others would find offensive) before they are willing to engage in discourse.

It can be seen all around us, in every facet of life. An author can’t write about religion without either attacking it or accepting it wholeheartedly. You’re either defending atheism or attempting to prove that God absolutely exists. You can’t write about politics without incorporating images of dead fetuses (on the conservative side), or of young immigrants in tears (on the liberal side). In addressing generational gaps, it’s always either a “lazy millennial” or a “close-minded baby-boomer.”

What happened to the 80 percent of people in the middle – the ones capable of having a reasonable conversation without resorting to violent rhetoric and posturing? How have we let the outliers become our socially acceptable norm, and how to we return to a world of reason?

The challenge is this: authors make money when people read their work. They make more when people engage, comment, and share. Culturally, we now HAVE to use provocative language in order to coax complacent people to simply click the hyperlink.

So, how do we fix it?

As journalists, writers, and others who sort of “steer” human culture, we have to learn to use extreme language to coax people back toward reasonable thought. We have to provoke them toward acceptance, and anger them toward open-mindedness. It’s the ultimate challenge in persuasive writing.

“Terrorist Generosity Gave me PTSD” was really just an article about learning to accept the situation, culture, and beliefs of people who are different than we are, but the title stung enough to make a few people who didn’t give a shit about me feel the urge to click. And once they clicked, they were in my world. I could use powerful imagery and wordsmithing to coax them toward a thought they, perhaps, hadn’t considered before. I could weave a story that would lead them into considering the root of one of our world’s major problems.

Any thoughts from other “Guides of the Human Terrain” would be most appreciated.

People are still reasonable. We just have to remind them how to communicate reasonably, and that’s a multi-generational endeavor.


4 thoughts on “The Provocation Generation

  1. It’s true. You almost have to “bait” people into a dialogue. I don’t really like that word but it’s just about right. It’s even harder on the internet, where anonymity can encourage people to be more vitriolic.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not sure how I feel about this. It’s a really interesting observation. But I veer on the side of believing that, in a world that’s overrun with shock and awe headlines and provocative sound bytes, staying calm and being reasonable have become minority attitudes. So, in essence, just by standing up to the rhetoric, you kind of already are a badass. I do get what you mean, though, about having to “dress up” a balanced blog post, for example, to make it appear more sexy. There IS an art to persuasive writing and getting people to click on your blog posts. But it’s a fine line we walk. To be honest, the title you mention – “Terrorist Generosity Gave me PTSD” – doesn’t do anything for me. That might just be because I’ve already reached my limit with these kinds of attention-grabbers. But I guess the numbers don’t lie. Most people would click on it to read more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful comment, and for clicking to read more. I’ve updated that link (thanks for helping me not look like an idiot). Here it is for quick reference as well:

      Mostly I just explore concepts – I agree that playing into the culture isn’t really a great solution. Maybe one day we can figure out a better one? Sincerely appreciate you reading along. ❤ -TQV

      Liked by 1 person

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