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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Why ridiculous stories do well

So today I had a piece up on Washington Post On Parenting about my hilariously bad grocery shopping habits.

I pitched it as a funny blog bit, and that's what I wrote, style and form and all. I mean, I used the word poo-splosion in the Washington Post, and I'm thinking not many people have been able to pull that off.

Now, why on Earth would I do such a thing? Does it get any more boring than grocery shopping?

I didn't think so. Until I posted a picture of my carriage on my private facebook, to show my friends how full it was. (My facebook is SCINTILLATING, let me tell you about it.)

Anyway, in true fashion, I got about 250 comments telling me about all the ways I was doing it wrong, with varying degrees of outrage, disgust and empathy. It was a pretty great thread, not going to lie.

And I've learned a few things about the Internet:

1) Facebook doesn't lie. If people wanted to talk about my groceries on Facebook, they probably wanted to talk about my groceries in a national newspaper.

2) You don't have to be serious all the time. The tone in this blog (and in that piece) is pretttttty different from the tone I strike when writing a story on something actually relevant to anyone's life.

3) People LOVE to feel superior to other people, and I love to help them make that happen.

This grocery shopping post was number one in the parenting section all day, and it was the fourth most read story on the Washington Post site itself during business hours. My husband was thinking that, damn, a whole lot of people must think they grocery shop wrong and want a companion, but that's not it. I mean, surely some people were there for that, but I've no doubt most of the clicks were hate clicks. People can look at that carriage and read my little comedy bit about the process, and they can feel better than me. And I don't mind! Grocery shopping rates right alongside bowling with things I wish I could do really well at. So if I'm able to fill that I'm-better-than-you void with some puffy writing, all the better for both of us.

But, yeah, if anyone was wondering, it's a thing. It's not clickbait. I mean, nothing in the title, I grocery shop all wrong, screams click me. It's not important. Nothing leads anyone to believe it is. And other than click bait and importance, we're left with two reasons people click things:

1) Hate click. Their friend read it and shared it with the "OMG HOW IS THIS IN THE POST" label.

2) Superiority. They read the headline and figured they'd be able to feel successful about one area of their lives.

And that's how a blog-like grocery post got so popular on WaPo.

The end.


  1. "Why is this even an article? This is a Facebook post that you should be sharing with your friends and neighbors. At best, it's a Buzz Feed post. It's definitely does not belong in a newspaper of record like the Washington Post."

  2. I read it because I thought I'd learn something. No hating. No superiority complex.



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