This is it folks, the end of the line. If you’ve made it this far, then you already know that a few of us here at CopyPress have been examining the relationships that emotions have on online social content using Plutchik’s Wheel as the basis of our arguments. Last time I wrote about how anonymity and anxieties associated with social media can often incite rage and/or terror for online users. While certainly the internet can be a scary place, it can also invigorate you or fill you with wonder. This week’s topic concludes this series in emotional social sharing trends by digging into the last two remaining emotions on the wheel – Vigilance and Amazement.
Vigilance can be defined as a state of keen alertness, ever watchful for activity of any particular interest. Whether your interests were rooted in suspicious, curiosity or excitement – being vigilant will lead to new insight. In politics, vigilance is an expected trait of our elected democratic leaders. People demand an administration that is consistently aware of what’s happening both globally and in their own backyard. On the flipside, it is in the people’s best interest to stay vigilant so that the powers that be stay loyal to those that they swore to represent. I believe it was the famous American abolitionist Wendell Phillips who said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few.”
In the context of social sharing, vigilance is only earned by those who take active measures to seek information. With millions of blog posts, tweets, YouTube videos, podcasts being made every day, it can be difficult to keep track of what’s going on. That’s why the most vigilant online users take advantage of various tools and resources to stay ahead of the curve.
Tools of the Trade
Unlike other emotions on the wheel, online users who exhibit vigilance are what you might call “power users”. They have moved beyond simple interest and anticipation of fresh content and are instead honed into where to get their next information or media fix. In order to make the most of their time, these advanced users are using powerful tools that bring the content to them. Forget bookmarking your favorite sites, that’s bush league. Here are just some of the tools of the trade:
- Google Alerts – vigilant users keep tabs on their favorite topics of interest by flagging key search terms that bloggers might use.
- Twitter Search – there’s no better way for a user to find out exactly what’s going on in the moment than Twitter search. For instance, I knew exactly when Osama Bin Laden was assassinated and could read people’s reactions a good five minutes before the blogosphere picked it up.
- RSS Feeds – informed users keep up-to-date on all of the latest trends, updates and industry news through RSS feeds. With the prevalence of mobile technology, RSS keeps people on the pulse of the Internet at all times.
- Reddit – Probably the most entertaining resource, Reddit combines all of the best interactions of message boards and front-page news and spits it out into an easy-to-read, user-friendly format. Its content database is so massive and all-encompassing that you could consider it the Wal-Mart of online forums.
Vigilance is a key attribute for the most dedicated of your audience. They are often the most passionate of a brand, and for some brands they will foam at the mouth for any new nugget of information your PR team and community managers decide to toss to them. You might have heard the term “fanboy” tossed around on a blog somewhere… in essence, it describes the most active and engaged chunk of your audience, and they can be a powerful tool when used properly. Not convinced? Just check out Mac Rumors and see for yourself the fanboys in their natural habitat.
Of course, vigilant users online also care about important issues that affect more than whether or not they qualify for the latest iPhone upgrade. Take the infamous SOPA incident that had the Internet up-in-arms and ready to declare war on state policy-makers. I’m sure you’re probably sick of reading about this so I’ll keep it brief. SOPA (Stop Internet Piracy Act) was a strategically written bill bankrolled by the RIAA and other corporate interest groups that would allow them the final say whether a piece of content posted online is considered “copyright infringement” or not with little to no due process. Not surprisingly, the bloggers and Internet conglomerates rallied together to kill the bill, raising awareness to stop similarly written bills from being passed in the future. This is a great example of how online vigilance can translate into a real-world action.
The term “amazing” is funny because it’s so commonly used, often in hyperbole. Louis CK has a great bit about how people love to immediately reach for the top-shelf when describing things. He argues that if you call a basket of chicken wings “amazing”, then how would you describe Jesus descending from the sky and impregnating you with a new living lord? You’ve already limited yourself verbally to a s**t life! Ok I’ll stop now before I completely butcher it.
The point is that people like to throw around words like “amazing” so often for the most benign things that we can forget what the term actually means. The dictionary defines amazement as a state of extreme surprise or wonder. On the emotions wheel, amazement is the culmination of distraction and surprise. When you are truly amazed, all of your pre-conceived notions or judgments about something go out the window. For that brief moment, you’re completely speechless and might even be unable to fully process what’s happening.
Since true amazement is a rare thing, it can be tough to capture that emotion through social sharing. More often than not, social media usually serves as an amusing distraction, falling further away from the center of the emotion wheel. How many times have you heard that the Internet is making media and entertainment more disposable? I can certainly relate with that point. When I’m listening to music, looking through pictures on tumblr and checking my Twitter all at the same time, I’m never fully appreciating or connecting with any platform. This doesn’t mean that I’m never surprised or even amazed by online content; it’s just more difficult for something truly profound to break through the clutter.