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Controversial threads always attract the most attention: How do we stop it? watch

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    So it's pretty easy to notice that generally, controversial threads or comments attract the most attention. But why is this, and is it good or bad?

    Honestly I'm just interested because, if I take this forum in itself, pretty much all the top/most viewed threads are threads saying something controversial like "men are superior to women", "feminist women are ugly", "X isn't a real disability" and stuff like that.

    The question is, why do we let (often extreme minority) controversial viewpoints dominate society? In wider society I look to climate change (new reporters normally have on climate change scientist and one denier - although this ratio MASSIVELY under-represents reality) or Donald Trump (who got all the media attention since he said/did controversial things, and nothing serious got debated).

    I think it's clear that this is bad. But why on earth do we give in to this? I do it as much as others; but every time I click on one of these links and reply to a clearly controversial comment, I'm just making it worse.
    I reckon the majority of these people just want attention (e.g. Trump) and we're giving in to this! Why don't we popularise sensitive, interesting or important comments/threads instead? Most importantly, how can we do that, since it seems difficult in society not to make everything about hyperbolising life - almost everything nowadays is becoming fixated on the absolute highs and lows of life (take one look at YouTube) - and I think it needs to change.

    The popularity of bait comments like this on social media is just a symptom to the polarisation of life (where everything is just about the extreme highs and lows). So how do we celebrate the mundane more and give less attention to minority controversy - instead focusing on the majority of the fantastic, interesting and kind comments/forums?
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    You can't. Unless people are posting about doing something illegal, the threads generally won't be removed without good reason.
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    (Original post by Tiger Rag)
    You can't. Unless people are posting about doing something illegal, the threads generally won't be removed without good reason.
    I'm not talking about removing posts/opinions like that - I don't support that by any means. I mean how can we as a society fight the desensitization and polarisation of life which currently plagues society - here represented by the amount of attention thoughtless/purposefully controversial comments get, particularly as opposed to thoughtful and kind comments/threads.
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    Why do these threads get the most attention? Because the mundane is accepted and people don't really have an opinion on it. The news/newspapers don't report on what "matters", they report on what is interesting. Why is that? Because the purpose is not necessarily to inform but to get attention. The same is largely true for TSR.

    Why does anyone start a thread? There's usually two reasons. The thread starter is asking a question so wants an answer to a problem they have or the thread starter wants some form of discussion. No matter what people might say, drama and conflict is far more interesting than mundane discussion. A thread that contains 2 people arguing over different points is more likely to stay alive than a thread that gets thirty responses of "I agree". It is far easier to shock people to get attention than it is to start threads over mundane issues.

    Of course in some cases, the discussion is intended as a point of learning or friendly debate. In other cases the thread poster is simply trying to stir up a response. Some users do simply have nothing better to do than troll an online forum.

    And finally they usually get something out of it. Social media has taught people to seek that online gratification. Getting 50 likes on a new profile picture gives you a nice warm feeling. Waking up and checking TSR to find you have 20 notifications gives a similar feeling. There's a subconscious reward structure going on and the fastest way to tap into it is by starting a controversial debate.

    Should that change? It depends on your point of view. I'd argue that it doesn't really detract from society. The people doing real good are probably not wasting their time on TSR to begin with for example. Likewise those who do choose to engage in fruitless, controversial discussions are unlikely to find a better use of their time. In some cases it might simply be a way of blowing off steam, or communicating with new people, or seeing things from a different point of view. But above all else I think the world would be a really boring place if people simply agreed with each other all the time. Controversial threads are in themselves a form of entertainment. They get traffic going on TSR, they get people talking. If you simply replaced all that with mundane threads, many people would find TSR to be a very boring place. So I don't think there's an inherent problem with the way TSR, or even other entities handle their controversial threads. To some extent they're necessary. Of course that doesn't mean that we wouldn't all benefit from more intellectual discussion, or just outright doing something useful with our lives. But then I'd be giving humans far too much credit.
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    (Original post by Acsel)
    Why do these threads get the most attention? Because the mundane is accepted and people don't really have an opinion on it. The news/newspapers don't report on what "matters", they report on what is interesting. Why is that? Because the purpose is not necessarily to inform but to get attention. The same is largely true for TSR.

    Why does anyone start a thread? There's usually two reasons. The thread starter is asking a question so wants an answer to a problem they have or the thread starter wants some form of discussion. No matter what people might say, drama and conflict is far more interesting than mundane discussion. A thread that contains 2 people arguing over different points is more likely to stay alive than a thread that gets thirty responses of "I agree". It is far easier to shock people to get attention than it is to start threads over mundane issues.

    Of course in some cases, the discussion is intended as a point of learning or friendly debate. In other cases the thread poster is simply trying to stir up a response. Some users do simply have nothing better to do than troll an online forum.

    And finally they usually get something out of it. Social media has taught people to seek that online gratification. Getting 50 likes on a new profile picture gives you a nice warm feeling. Waking up and checking TSR to find you have 20 notifications gives a similar feeling. There's a subconscious reward structure going on and the fastest way to tap into it is by starting a controversial debate.

    Should that change? It depends on your point of view. I'd argue that it doesn't really detract from society. The people doing real good are probably not wasting their time on TSR to begin with for example. Likewise those who do choose to engage in fruitless, controversial discussions are unlikely to find a better use of their time. In some cases it might simply be a way of blowing off steam, or communicating with new people, or seeing things from a different point of view. But above all else I think the world would be a really boring place if people simply agreed with each other all the time. Controversial threads are in themselves a form of entertainment. They get traffic going on TSR, they get people talking. If you simply replaced all that with mundane threads, many people would find TSR to be a very boring place. So I don't think there's an inherent problem with the way TSR, or even other entities handle their controversial threads. To some extent they're necessary. Of course that doesn't mean that we wouldn't all benefit from more intellectual discussion, or just outright doing something useful with our lives. But then I'd be giving humans far too much credit.
    I agree with your explanation of why it happens - but that's so mundane, isn't it.
    However, I disagree with your latter statements. You make it seem very black and white - controversial or boring. I don't think that's the case at all - it does occur quite often that very exciting and kind things blow up - on this site there is loads of fantastic content that gets lots of views, and ultimately, people who engage with this content seem far more interested in it and far more genuine.
    Also, disagreement doesn't necessarily mean controversial - I'm disagreeing with you here, but this isn't exactly infested with people having tantrums or just trolling as happens on social media a lot.
    To add to that, a lot of content isn't a binary "agree" or "disagree" thing. Sure, so much of the stuff about atheism/theism is binary, but there is so much more content than just facts. If someone's running a blog and they're just telling stories, there is no real "disagree" and "agree" and yet most the time the quality of the content has no correlation with popularity.
    Essentially, therefore, my question is how do we engage people with quality content rather than content which has a lower quality.

    To answer your other point that we need not do this, I don't agree.
    1) Once again you draw a contrast between people doing real good and people who aren't - such a polarisation is (ironically) pretty typical of these viewpoints, but I think there's a lot more grey than that - and it's the grey which is interesting. Oh, and to add to that, I'm sure plenty of people doing real good do visit TSR... (especially since doing real good has no quantative specifications).
    2) Even if there were a contrast between real-good-doers and people who don't do real good, should we really just allow such a contrast to exist. Essentially that's like saying "who cares, let them enjoy stuff which is addictive but harmful" - a bit like refusing to help smokers or alcohol addicts. Ultimately, drama/controversy/polarisation is popular because it's addictive... Should we not help the addicts?
    3) Because of (2) I think that loads of people with the potential to do more than just sit in useless online arguments which essentially just post trolls/purposefully controversial comments end up hooked on this sort of idea... much like how people become addicted to the number of likes they get on instagram - should we not change this? So I think these people can find a better use of time, especially since a lot of "real-good-doers" do spend time on TSR and some probably are hooked by these types of comments/threads. Take one very simple example: instant gratification (in the form of 30 upvotes/replies on your thread because it was very controversial) targets vulnerable people, in particular insecure people a lot of the time. Just because people are vulnerable/insecure, doesn't mean they can't do good in the world. Should we not help them?

    By the way, thank you for showing the real way (obviously - but unfortunately it's rare, so perhaps another method could be good) of combatting this problem - by posting an engaging answer to a question which is not at all catchy enough for instant gratification! Would love to hear what you think about the above.
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    (Original post by Martins1)
    So it's pretty easy to notice that generally, controversial threads or comments attract the most attention. But why is this, and is it good or bad?

    Honestly I'm just interested because, if I take this forum in itself, pretty much all the top/most viewed threads are threads saying something controversial like "men are superior to women", "feminist women are ugly", "X isn't a real disability" and stuff like that.

    The question is, why do we let (often extreme minority) controversial viewpoints dominate society? In wider society I look to climate change (new reporters normally have on climate change scientist and one denier - although this ratio MASSIVELY under-represents reality) or Donald Trump (who got all the media attention since he said/did controversial things, and nothing serious got debated).

    I think it's clear that this is bad. But why on earth do we give in to this? I do it as much as others; but every time I click on one of these links and reply to a clearly controversial comment, I'm just making it worse.
    I reckon the majority of these people just want attention (e.g. Trump) and we're giving in to this! Why don't we popularise sensitive, interesting or important comments/threads instead? Most importantly, how can we do that, since it seems difficult in society not to make everything about hyperbolising life - almost everything nowadays is becoming fixated on the absolute highs and lows of life (take one look at YouTube) - and I think it needs to change.

    The popularity of bait comments like this on social media is just a symptom to the polarisation of life (where everything is just about the extreme highs and lows). So how do we celebrate the mundane more and give less attention to minority controversy - instead focusing on the majority of the fantastic, interesting and kind comments/forums?
    Because emotions. People engage with things that provoke reactions. That's why buzzfeed, indy100, any online tabloid, and clickbait in general does so well. This is not something that you can make rational arguments and expect them to have any effect.
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    (Original post by Martins1)
    I agree with your explanation of why it happens - but that's so mundane, isn't it.
    However, I disagree with your latter statements. You make it seem very black and white - controversial or boring. I don't think that's the case at all - it does occur quite often that very exciting and kind things blow up - on this site there is loads of fantastic content that gets lots of views, and ultimately, people who engage with this content seem far more interested in it and far more genuine.
    Also, disagreement doesn't necessarily mean controversial - I'm disagreeing with you here, but this isn't exactly infested with people having tantrums or just trolling as happens on social media a lot.
    To add to that, a lot of content isn't a binary "agree" or "disagree" thing. Sure, so much of the stuff about atheism/theism is binary, but there is so much more content than just facts. If someone's running a blog and they're just telling stories, there is no real "disagree" and "agree" and yet most the time the quality of the content has no correlation with popularity.
    Essentially, therefore, my question is how do we engage people with quality content rather than content which has a lower quality.

    To answer your other point that we need not do this, I don't agree.
    1) Once again you draw a contrast between people doing real good and people who aren't - such a polarisation is (ironically) pretty typical of these viewpoints, but I think there's a lot more grey than that - and it's the grey which is interesting. Oh, and to add to that, I'm sure plenty of people doing real good do visit TSR... (especially since doing real good has no quantative specifications).
    2) Even if there were a contrast between real-good-doers and people who don't do real good, should we really just allow such a contrast to exist. Essentially that's like saying "who cares, let them enjoy stuff which is addictive but harmful" - a bit like refusing to help smokers or alcohol addicts. Ultimately, drama/controversy/polarisation is popular because it's addictive... Should we not help the addicts?
    3) Because of (2) I think that loads of people with the potential to do more than just sit in useless online arguments which essentially just post trolls/purposefully controversial comments end up hooked on this sort of idea... much like how people become addicted to the number of likes they get on instagram - should we not change this? So I think these people can find a better use of time, especially since a lot of "real-good-doers" do spend time on TSR and some probably are hooked by these types of comments/threads. Take one very simple example: instant gratification (in the form of 30 upvotes/replies on your thread because it was very controversial) targets vulnerable people, in particular insecure people a lot of the time. Just because people are vulnerable/insecure, doesn't mean they can't do good in the world. Should we not help them?

    By the way, thank you for showing the real way (obviously - but unfortunately it's rare, so perhaps another method could be good) of combatting this problem - by posting an engaging answer to a question which is not at all catchy enough for instant gratification! Would love to hear what you think about the above.
    To some extent it's necessary to generalise here. The title of this thread "Controversial threads attract the most attention" is in itself a generalisation. The topic itself is far too broad to actually have a discussion because there's no defined scale. Naturally there will be some threads better or worse than others but it's not really practical to cherry pick content to use as examples, nor is there a "one size fits all" answer to this question. So for that reason I had to generalise otherwise it would be impossible to give an answer.

    With relation to should we help the addicts that's a difficult argument to have. On one hand, I don't approve of smoking in any capacity for example. It's of no benefit to anyone and I'd quite happily just take smoking right out of existence if I could. On the other hand, I'm generally pro choice, that I'd like to give people the options if they want. I'd rather not force people not to do something, even if it's as harmful as smoking. My priority is myself and there will always be people I don't agree with, so arguing with them is fruitless. This becomes even more complex for things like alcohol or controversial threads as a form of entertainment which do actually have benefits, even if the drawbacks far outweigh those benefits. There of course is also a difference between someone who drinks occasionally and someone who is an alcoholic. Likewise there is a difference between someone who casually follows controversial threads and someone who lives to troll the internet. Most people fall on the lower end of that spectrum and it's usually the high end (serious trolls and alcoholics) that I'd deem helping them is fine. The issue becomes compounded by quantity I guess, one person making a controversial thread is not an issue, hundreds doing it once is.

    Yes, internet and technology addiction is a real problem. But at the same time we are also moving more towards a technological age. While I think things like gratification at the number of upvotes or Facebook likes or whatever is dumb, it's so deeply ingrained that it would require a massive overhaul of the Internet to function. Sites like Facebook, Amazon (Prime) and so on have conditioned us so much for instant gratification that it's not a simple fix. Nor is it something that should simply be removed. There are benefits involved just as much as there are drawbacks. Amazon Prime makes us all impatient but it's also damn useful. The ability to put up a false front on social media can be a blessing for some people that helps them cope with the problems in their lives. It's a very fine tightrope between things that are actually causing problems and things that are doing good. There is often a lot of overlap.

    Personally I would love to see clickbait pages die in a hole. I'd love to get all the Internet trolls together and have them tackle some real problems. But its not practical and at some point it moves away from giving people freedom of choice. It's also not really a new problem, the issues discussed have existed for a long time but as with many things, the Internet means those problems can now exist online as well. Clickbait and controversial content always existed, it just used to only be available in whatever papers your local newsagent had. To some extent, these problems are part of human nature and this becomes an exercise in perfecting the human. I would argue that when you take away something that makes a person human, you no longer have a human.

    Naturally it's all far more complex than that, just some random thoughts I'm throwing out there
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