Upworthy, the site dedicated to publishing viral “stuff that matters,” is just really annoying, its founders have admitted for the first time.
While last year Upworthy was lauded for being the fastest growing media site of all time, it is now being derided as the fastest growing social irritant of all time, and the two men who launched the site in 2012 say they are plagued with regret.
“We’d hoped to create a quiet little site for people who needed a morale boost, or who had just watched a disturbing horror movie like ‘Saw VI’ and wanted to feel better,” said co-founder Eli Pariser. “But now it’s gotten way out of hand, and somehow we’ve slipped into a grand crusade to solve the world’s every ill, one click at a time.”
“I’m thinking of changing my name and moving to Belize,” he added.
“We admit it,” said co-founder Peter Koechley. “The Upworthy clickbait that festers and clogs up your Facebook news feed is, truth be told, the most obnoxious crap being passed around social media — even more than those ‘share this photo of a rose if you love your wife’ memes.”
“People who share our content might feel like they’re doing something good, but in reality they’re just making others very angry,” Koechley said. “No one wants to watch videos every single day about Ellen Page fighting to end transphobia in Bangalore call center restrooms. As surprising as it sounds, most people just want gossip about Miley Cyrus, or updates about political scandals, or articles about how to prevent hair loss.”
Robert Stein, one of the site’s curators — those who scour the internet for annoying content to publish on Upworthy — says he looks for things that pander to individuals who see themselves as concerned about issues like racism and inequality, yet who are “too self-centered and lazy to do anything other than click a share button.”
Stein said the only pleasure he gets from his job is knowing that people cannot resist clicking on the A/B-tested headlines he composes, and that they will immediately hate themselves afterwards for having fallen for such an obvious ruse. With any luck, Stein said, these suckers will be so angry that they will kick their cat across the room.
“I hate cats,” Stein said.
Both Upworthy founders admit that in most cases, consuming the site’s content has the opposite effect of the organization’s stated progressive goals, which include increasing social and economic equality, as well as drawing attention to climate change.
Many people whose Facebook news feeds are overrun with Upworthy content end up joining neo-Nazi militias, while others, for reasons they can’t explain, start running through their city with the sole intention of finding a krokodil-addicted, legless Russian orphan to beat up.
“Please,” Pariser said. “If anyone out there finds a way to put us out of our misery, by all means do it. I’m begging you.”