Science Of Small Talk

The science of social behavior, one interaction at a time

The Greatest Blog Post Ever

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sexSex. Discussion of young, attractive people having sex. Allusions to young, attractive people having sex. Anything even tangentially related to the possibility of that, at some point in time, people of even moderate youth or attractiveness had themselves a bit of sex.

Marriage and its inevitable ups and downs. Communication in marriage, or lack thereof. Sex in marriage, or lack thereof.

Infidelity. How to detect it. How to prevent it or get over it. Why you're currently engaged in it. Why men can't help it and why women can't help but let them do it.

It's been 18 months now that I've been blogging on the psychology of daily life, or the science of small talk as the title of my Psychology Today anthology suggests. It's been quite the interesting experience. Two or three times a month I sit down at my computer, type something up, format it on the website, and then in an act of blind faith, click the button to send it out to into the increasingly overcrowded marketplace of web ideas.

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Happiness. How to be happy. Why you aren't happy enough. Why you even shouldn't care about being happy in the first place.

PalinPolitics. Why Obama is the second coming. Why Obama is ruining the world. Why I thought Obama was the second coming, only to find out later that he has decided to ruin the world. Oh, and maybe something about Palin too.

You see, you're never quite sure how the 1,000 words you type up in private are going to play once they get out there and have to fend for themselves. But you find out pretty quickly. Sometimes the entries you throw together quickly end up with thousands of views in just a few days. Other times, an idea hits you like a lightning bolt, you take you time to craft a sure winner, and the post flatlines right out of the gate.

Anything about reality TV. Or Facebook. Or Twitter.

Absolute statements regarding the evolutionarily-dictated nature of human behavior, supported by unfalsifiable or circular reasoning. Also usually about sex. Like why literally everything a man does is aimed to increase his chances of having sex. Why every single stereotype you've ever heard about men and women is, in actuality, an unavoidable, Darwin-sanctioned truth.

Or more genetics lessons like why promiscuous men are more likely to have twins. Why middle siblings are disproportionately gay. Why attractive people are smarter and better and taller and funnier than you. And, while we're at it, why these attractive people have middle children who want to have sex with your less intelligent, short, unfunny, gay twins–preferably posted as a seven-part serial.

But after 18 months, I'm beginning to catch on. In looking at the number of views each of my own entries has inspired–as well as the most widely read efforts from my fellow bloggers on the site–I've started to discern some of the common elements of a popular blog post. It's an interesting psychological question to ponder, after all. And rather than ration out these common ingredients for popular posts by sprinkling them into my own work over the course of the next few months, I've decided to go for broke and throw them all into just one entry in the effort to assemble the single greatest blog post of all time. You're reading it right now.

Megan FoxPictures of celebrities in the news. Pictures of attractive female celebrities whether or not they're in the news. Pictures of attractive females whether or not they're celebrities or in the news.

Pictures of anyone notorious. Pictures of anyone who just died. Pictures of anyone who allegedly had sex with people who are notorious and/or just died.

But definitely somewhere, somehow, lots and lots of pictures.

Of course, you might argue that number of hits is not the only way to gauge the greatness of a blog post. Touché. I concede that on a website devoted to entertaining, but also helping and educating readers, a blogger may have grander objectives than mere popularity. Like, for instance, the not unrelated goal of pissing people off. By that measure, too, I have high aspirations for the greatness of what you're now reading. For example...

Global warming. Nothing particularly controversial or groundbreaking about the idea, mind you, just a willingness to use the phrase and recognize its existence.

Race. The mere suggestion of racial bias. The idea that race could have influenced an ongoing current event or might shed some light on a societal issue. The audacious insinuation that we have not achieved the post-racial holy land, and still, from time to time, have to wrestle with issues of race.

Gay marriage. Health care. Religion. Socialism. Vaccination.

But mostly, race.

To be fair, the lessons on how to elicit angry responses didn't take me a full 18 months. On that count, I proved to be a quick learner–it took all of two weeks before I had been referred to in reader responses as a "racist," a "knave," and a "smug, narcissistic fraud." And you should've seen what the comments of non-family members were like.

Why you have to see the movie everyone's talking about because it reveals deep truths about human nature. Why the movie everyone's talking about gets it all wrong, psychologically speaking.

A list, preferably numbered, of how to improve yourself or achieve success in an important domain.

The problems with schools and parents today. Also numbered in a list.

Something with a vaguely-camouflaged obscenity in the title. Something with the word "lover" in the title. Something pretty similar to what someone else posted a week ago, but with a catchier, sexier, or more vaguely obscene title.

TigerTiger.

So there you have it: my shot at the greatest blog post of all time. Only time will tell if the grand experiment has succeeded. For now, though, it's back to the drawing board for me for new ideas. If you have suggestions, you know how to find to me–I'll be the knave scouring Google Images for pictures of Obama and Al Gore initiating the interracial climate change conspiracy... in bed.

 

UPDATE: Mission accomplished.  As of early June 2010, this entry now stands alone as the most read in my close to 2-years worth of posts on this blog.  It also made Psychology Today's list of 10 most viewed posts for May 2010, coming in at #5.  For the record, that's sandwiched right between an entry on female orgasm (#4) and one on masturbation (#6).  Now, there's a countdown that might make even Casey Kasem blush...

 

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Sam Sommers is a social psychologist at Tufts University in Medford, MA. His first book, Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World, will be published by Riverhead Books (Penguin) in December 2011. You can follow him on Facebook here and on Twitter here.

Sam Sommers, Ph.D., is a social psychologist at Tufts University and author of the forthcoming book Situations Matter. more...

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