Whenever we’re scrolling down the timeline or thread of our favorite social media platform, we inevitably stumble upon posts and content that strikes us as exemplary bad. And then it happens again. And again. In fact, we see those so often that we end up brushing aside our initial repugnance and we move on in denial. The worse the post, the faster they are ignored. This reaction is a basic psychological defense mechanism that protects us from wasting time on interactions that bring no value to the table.
Yet this same reflex of denial can have a less benign side-effect: in our failing to identify the exact nature of an issue that is causing us to ignore it, we often end up repeating the same mistake when we are the authors. I suggest that instead of ignoring those offenders, we spend time paying them closer attention.
Just like society and culture tend to teach us about good behavior by emphasizing the bad, there is often more educational gems hidden in a bad piece of content than there is in a shiny one. As a result, our ability to identify a given trait as “bad” is, more often than not, a corollary effect of our latent expertise in the domain. So instead of growing increasingly annoyed by bad content, we can pick up on these emotional triggers and turn the bad that we encounter into useful lessons for good. Lucky for us, there are no laws against making it a conscious choice to make reverse psychology work in our favor.
A lesson taught is a lesson learned
Every once in a while, you can try and turn a bad experience into content that’s actually useful. The exercise will have two effects: in the long term, it will help improve the quality of the material that gets posted on the web; in the shorter term, it will force you to wrap words and concepts around the lessons taught through your content, which may be just what you need to avoid making the same mistake in a not-so-remote future. So what does this exercise implies in practice?
Anatomy of a bad post
On the surface, the main reason why a piece of content falls into your “bad” slot is probably obvious, at least to yourself: wrong imagery, bad formatting, painful writing, irritating tone, incorrect grammar, etc. Since there are probably a million ways to get the same thing “wrong” or “incorrect”, you need to dig in your toolbox, pin the post on your desk and proceed to dissect the subject.
Was the post actually good but taken down by a simple yet honest grammar mistake? Or is the most obvious error a reflection of the entire content? Can it be fixed at all? Would addressing the error restore value to the post? What are the ways the original author could have gotten around this problem in the first place? Are there more than one solution to the problem at hand?
Turning someone else’s bad post into good content for you is good for the soul, if nothing else. Sculpting a lesson out of another man/woman’s raw piece of disastrous content can be really rewarding. Here’s an example of such a post. You will learn just as much as you will teach, often simply because you’re teaching it.
Remember that bad content flows like a raging river; you will never stop it on your own. There is nothing wrong with treating that flood as a God-given — and therefore infinite — source of material for your own content.
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