Ever hear of Flow magazine? Maybe it’s not ringing a bell. But if you use Facebook, you may recall seeing posts like “The 6 cancer causers in your home you need to get rid of!” or “The most common form of stress these days is dealing with fake people who can’t be trusted” or the classic “Woman arrested for training squirrels to attack her ex-boyfriend.” Flow was originally a Dutch magazine that was created, according to its website, to celebrate paper. In other words, it looks like it began as the kind of DIY craft and decoration magazine that female users of Pinterest love, and the international version of their Facebook page still embraces this kind of artistry.
But for some reason the American version of the Flow magazine Facebook page is a completely different story. Clearly, they’ve discovered a new business model. In fact, you have to look hard to find anything relating to paper or crafts at all. Mostly Flow’s Facebook page is packed with 20 or so posts a day featuring deep, thought-provoking headlines like “Never cry for the person who hurts you. Just smile and say ‘Thanks for giving me the chance to find someone better than you'” or important social messages like “This gorilla is sweeping the web… when he turns around it’s easy to see why!”
You see, Flow magazine is a prime example of the “anything for a click” attitude taken by too many online content providers in today’s modern social media. Flow desperately wants to build their following so they can show more people ads on their website, and worse, obtain personal data directly from platforms like Facebook (I recommend that you do not click on their posts, by the way). Those uplifting quotes you are liking and sharing? The only thing they’re lifting up is the bottom line of Flow magazine. Flow has proven that they will create and share anything – and I mean anything – without regard to target audience or good taste or common sense or grammar or even logic (“Japanese whaling crew eaten alive by killer whales!”) to get you to like, share or visit their page.
But they’re not the only culprit. Today, our Facebook news feeds are jam packed with lame quotes and fake news stories, so much so that it can be hard to find actual posts from our actual family and friends. When was the last time Aunt Sally posted any original content? Now she simply shares posts about dogs being reunited with their owners.
Facebook itself is cracking down on fake news and so is Google. But honestly, we created this monster ourselves. Each time we hit the “like” button on a gonzo post from one of these “anything for a click” providers, we encourage Facebook to show it to others. And the monster gets a little bigger.
With our addiction to content has come a desperate, indiscriminate lowering of our standards. When the world creates hundreds of millions of posts every day, we were bound to run low on legitimate content sooner or later, and it looks like that time has come. Few people actually spent money on The National Enquirer on newsstands (remember “bat child” screaming at you as you checked out with your Funyuns and OK Soda?), but for some reason they don’t mind “liking” similar content on social media. Maybe because it’s free.
But is it really? Haven’t all of the fake news and inspirational quotes cost us control of our own news feeds? Facebook has become impersonal, and that’s a shame. And for legitimate businesses like our clients, who simply want to share actual content once or twice a day, it makes good content one million times more important: the only way to stand out in the daily mountain of gobbledy goop on social media is to give your posts real value (informational or entertainment).
And so I beg you to ignore fake news and all the rest of the gunk that companies like Flow magazine are using to clog the internet. Better yet, hide them. Report them. Let’s get rid of them so we can go back to seeing relevant, interesting information, photos and videos on our social media. That’s a strategy we should all “like” and “share.”