Wait! Don’t Forward that Article!

Writing is hard. Writing well even harder.

Forwarding an article is much simpler than writing one.

Forwarding articles – or “content” as it is now called – is commonplace on LinkedIn. Every day LinkedIn members must endure a seeming barrage of forwarded articles from their connections.

Surprisingly, most of this content comes across without any comment from the forwarder. No context, no summary, no highlight. Nothing! Just more zeros and ones to the seemingly endless torrent of digital updates.

Two things at play here.

First, most writers and readers know a good title is golden. The right title will capture the reader’s interest. When it comes to books and movies, the title is literally money.  So, I understand when seeing a provocative title, people want to forward it.

But what follows many of these eye-catching titles is thinly veiled shilling for brands, products, and services. Plus, with many internet publishers emphasizing readability with lots of “white space” and the use of lists and headings in the body of the article, there is little (if any) journalistic meat on the bone to many of these items.  Many 300-500 word articles can be boiled down to one idea. A simple sentence.

So why don’t these drive-by forwarders highlight the one key point contained in the article? The answer is not that they can’t write. No, the more parsimonious answer is that they most likely haven’t even read the article. They got sucker-punched by the title themselves and in their eagerness to “build their personal brand” right-clicked and simply let it fly!

Which brings us to the second thing at play here.  A general thoughtless that is pervasive on the internet. Speed, it seems, trumps just about everything else these days. Nearly everywhere you look online is evidence that businesses and people simply aren’t thinking very deeply about what they are doing there.

Products should have clear and compelling value propositions. Rich expensive-to-build websites should be easy to find on Google and Bing.  Email campaigns should be grounded in compelling offers with clear calls to action. Web sites and emails should be mobile responsive (viewable on a smartphone). Why don’t all business embrace and deploy these well-established best practices? Because all those things involve strategy. Effective strategies require deep thought and creativity. Both require long stretches of uninterrupted time. Anyone remember free time?

On the personal side, far more egregious examples of thoughtlessness can be found. Beyond the incomplete or inaccurate LinkedIn profiles is the utter lack of discretion and restraint almost everywhere. All across the internet people regularly post misspelled, emotionally charged, and ill thought out retorts to all matter of discussion political, religious, and even sexual.

Don’t these people know that when it comes to the internet, everything lives forever on a server somewhere? Of course, they don’t. That would involve some thought. Thought would need time. Uninterrupted time. Time to pause, time to think, and time to reply appropriately.

The advocacy here is for two things. First, think before you act – both on the internet and in life. This is solid advice going back to Socrates and Plato.

And second, read the damn article before you send it. When you do be sure to include a line of why anyone should care about it.

Oh, and if you really want to add value to your connections – write something original. Or, better yet, don’t send anything at all.


Image: ©iStockphoto.com/StalkerJ


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