The way we share content discourages long articles that provide crucial context. For example, let's say some unscrupulous fellow who's jealous of my countless Internet comedy groupies starts a rumor that I like to make out with ducks. Maybe he photoshops a picture of me macking on a bufflehead, or maybe he digs up an old joke I made about banging pigeons and presents it out of context. Whatever his strategy, it leads to catchy headlines like "Cracked? More Like Quacked!"
I would naturally want to defend myself from these heinous accusations, but it's hard to explain away insinuations of duck sex in 140 characters. So I write up a post on my website where I explain that, because I'm an amateur ornithologist, there are naturally going to be a lot of pictures of me around birds that could be manipulated, and that any jokes I've made about bird boning were directed at a small group of friends who knew about my hobby and would understand that I was joking around, and that it just flat-out isn't true that scrambled eggs give me a boner and I'm not sure where that idea even came from.
But by the time I have the chance to write that, the original story would be shared far and wide. Even if I knew the accusations were coming and prepared my defense in advance, an essay can't compete with catchy headlines being mindlessly shared. Most people would skip right over my boring, wordy defense, if they were even aware of it.
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1,500 words and not a single picture? What is this shit, War and Peace?
This is also what prevents us from suggesting an appropriate punishment. It's never "This person should apologize and promise to do better." No, it's always "This person should be fired from their job and then fired out of a cannon into a fire." Once the Internet mob starts demanding e-blood, suggesting a less extreme option is all but impossible. The Internet gravitates to extremes because that's what the Internet rewards. The same mob mentality that makes a story popular in the first place makes it impossible to discuss rationally. As for how these stories can get so popular, well ...