Manufactured Urgency

The Internet increases people’s desire for instant gratification. Anyone who spends their days online and wired into phones knows this fact intuitively, but it’s also been supported by research from social scientists. Many websites tap into our accelerated need for action by urging people do things “immediately” or “right now.”

Here are a handful of images I captured from around the Internet:

From Slate

moustache.jpg

From The Huffington Post

From Entrepreneur

When I read headlines like these, I say to myself, “Oh my God. I need to the find the answers right away! It can’t wait another second!” So I click and find out about these urgent matters. I am invariably underwhelmed.

Yes, this trick is one that might get some clicks, and as I've said, I’ve fallen for it myself. But on me the effectiveness wore off quickly, and I have the feeling it does for others, too. The immediacy is manufactured, not real, and people will respond to only so many false alarms before feeling annoyed.

These headlines seem even more ridiculous because a lot of the things they recommend can’t be done immediately. Take for example, the handlebar moustache example above. No man can grow a handlebar moustache “immediately.” Growing a long, fancy moustache takes weeks at least.

The Entrepreneur article tells the reader about seven things to do “right now,” but no one can do seven things at a time. And many of the suggestions inside the article such as “Build your own cash cushion” and “Pay off debts” again will take weeks...even months, if not years.

Perhaps some will say I’m being too literal, and perhaps I am, but to me words actually need to mean something. These examples represent false packaging. They are promises that have been broken. For the publications themselves, they diminish their credibility.

Nowadays, whenever I see an article telling me what I need to do “immediately” or “right now,” I pass it over. I know it can wait.