Welcome to trust me, I’m lying

I was a bit suspicious but still curious when I stumbled over this book on my favorite book blog Marginal Revolution. Anyway, I bought the book quickly thanks to Amazon’s 1 click.

I read it a couple weeks ago and I have to confess I had a hard time with it, probably because I am still a bit naive about what’s going on in media. To start with Ryan makes some great simplifications:

  • all online publications are blogs: this includes my little writings here up to the New York Times.
  • all blogs have only one objective: more clicks which equal more advertising money. Okay, here I can exclude myself – this is not a blog!

He tells fascinating stories about how all these blogs operate, what they believe and how easy they can be manipulated. Based on that I would classify online content in three categories:

  • Information – that’s what we expect but rarely will find because first who wants to spend the money for the required research and work; second who wants to pay for it and third who wants to read a story longer than 750 words anyway?
  • Sensation – that’s what general audience seem to find interesting and encouraging, in most cases written great and researched poor.
  • Manipulation – that’s what we believe shouldn’t exist but fills many many screens: stuff spread to manipulate our perception, to influence our purchases, voting whatever. This excludes advertising which should be identifiable.

Ryan confesses that the last category is his speciality, explains in detail how it works – very simple actually – and how it can go awry. It can get bad very fast and quite serious, sometimes costing lives!

Weeks after reading the book I have to say that it changed my perception of online media (and media in general) quite a bit. Ryan pointed out the phrases, the constructs and tactics used by writers to hide that they know nothing or have only some unverified information by somebody with unverified personality, indicating that someone is spreading something to manipulate the general audience. I start to see these patterns, they are everywhere. As a result I am reducing my consumption of online media and try to spend more time on books, relaxation and work – I am just in love with work these days.

Now you better read the book of Ryan Holiday and stop hanging around on this non-blog.

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