The First Lady of link-bait
Philip Ellison 09 September, 2014 at 10:09
Michelle Obama can officially add “click-bait connoisseur” to her already impressive résumé. It was announced this week that the First Lady of the United States is joining the viral media site Upworthy in a guest curatorial position, as a part of her on-going “Higher Reach” campaign. Obama will focus on stories and videos that encourage and inspire young people to continue with their education and think about their future.
Her first piece has the suitably Upworthy-esque title “I Really Hope The Parents Of These People Get To See What They Said Here. They’d Probably Cry.” The post includes a video featuring the stories of first generation students at Kansas State University who overcame adversity. “As a country, we’re missing out on too much potential because too often young people don’t believe that college can be a reality for them – or they don’t know the steps to take to prepare themselves for higher education,” comments Obama. “So it’s up to all of us to make sure we’re helping our young people reach higher and take charge of their futures.”
Acquiring Obama as an editorial presence is a major coup for Upworthy. Despite racking up something in the region of 30 million unique visitors each month, the site has its detractors. And boy, is it easy to tear Upworthy down. Its distinctive headline style has fed the parody machine on Twitter over the last year, and the relentlessly optimistic nature of its content is bound to grate against the occasional cynic.
But there is also an argument to be made that Upworthy’s curation and heartstring-pulling serve a larger purpose, and that its focus on solutions and positive outcomes make it a much more constructive alternative to current favourites like BuzzFeed. “While critics might be right in accusing Upworthy’s headlines of often misrepresenting its content,” says The Guardian’s Cathrine Gyldensted, “it is skilfully doing exactly what research shows creates viral and engaging content; prompting arousal in the reader, usually of the awe inspiring and meaningful kind.”