Do we love videos that make us weepy?
“Down with online crybait!” declared a Salon article yesterday by Mary Elizabeth Williams. “Somehow,” she writes, “we’ve now created a world in which after proving to yourself that you’re not made of stone, you’re then encouraged to brag about it on Facebook, announcing that ‘This made me bawl my eyes out because I am still a person who cares about things and I am not yet dead inside and if you care about things you’ll cry too!’” She references a certain type of Upworthy video, the BuzzFeed fodder that promises to “restore your faith in humanity,” and the whole category of “the thing that happened to someone somewhere in the world and is now supposed to make you a better person.”
It seems that more marketers have been going this route as well, creating tearjerkers as a way to strike a chord and win shares. “This New Skype Ad Might Make You Cry at Work,” declared Co.Create a few days ago, referencing a three-minute-long commercial that’s garnered close to 900,000 views on YouTube in the last week. The spot, which Adweek describes as both “manipulative in the extreme” and “irresistible,” tells of two girls, both born without a left arm, who become best friends via Skype and finally meet in person years later. Another recent example: the Thai commercial that “has everyone reaching for their hankies,” as a Daily Mail headline put it. Also three minutes long, the sentimental ad for cell phone company TrueMove H has tallied more than 14 million views since it was posted two months ago.
All this “glurge” (or treacle), as Williams calls it, serves to counteract the deep vein of darker fodder on the web, of perverse humor, snarkiness, anger and gossipy fluff. But will too much of it result in a backlash, with people feeling endlessly manipulated, as Williams does? “How about the next time a box of tissues is invoked, it’s for a sneeze?” she writes.