I wrote a news headline that didn't even link to a story. Over 2,000 people commented on it anyway.

I've written for the fine people of the internet for more than a decade. At this point, you'd think nothing would surprise me.

I mean, I've had private messages sent to my personal inboxes that would make a sailor blush. I've had people write jaw-dropping screeds in response to articles I've written that shouldn't even have been controversial. I've watched comment sections turn into mob-like madness and have been called every unsavory name in the book.

Sometimes I think I've seen it all—and then something like this happens.


Last Thursday, Upworthy published an article I wrote with the headline, "Most domestic terrorism comes from white supremacists, FBI director tells lawmakers." The article includes links to sources for the facts, a video of Wray's testimony, information about what the current administration is/isn't doing about domestic terrorism, and some commentary and questions to get people thinking and talking.

When the article first went up on Upworthy's Facebook page on Thursday, it got more than a thousand shares and sparked hundreds of comments.

It was a pretty standard response for a piece like that.

But then this happened:

The article was shared again over the weekend, only this time there was a glitch. At first, here's what showed up on Facebook:

I have no idea why it says "Don't Publish this" or why there's no image. Someone was probably testing something behind the scenes and accidentally scheduled it to publish. And there was no article linked. If people clicked on the post, it went straight to this error page:

People shared and commented on the Facebook post anyway, which I thought was weird. But it got caught fairly quickly and taken down.

Later in the weekend, however, another share of the article went up, this time with the correct headline, image, and share text. Still no link to the article, though. Anyone who clicked was taken straight to that same 404 error page.

Guess how many shares and comments that post got before Upworthy got wind of the dead link and took it down.

More than 2,000 comments. And thousands of shares to other people's Facebook feeds.

[Deep breath.] Okay, people. We need to talk.

Is sharing a dead link embarrassing for Upworthy? Sure. But not nearly as embarrassing as the 2,000+ people who shared and commented on it without even clicking on it, nor as embarrassing as the commenters who wrote things like "This article is full of race-baiting b.s." and "This article is FAKE NEWS," without even reading the article they were attacking.

Again, there was no article to read. When I saw the Facebook share and started reading the comments, I was baffled. Only about 2% of the comments were people saying "There's a dead link," or "Link isn't working." Two in a hundred. No exaggeration.

Everyone else was reacting only to the headline. Full on debates raged. People claimed that Upworthy was publishing lies or writing articles that were just designed to divide people.

None of these commenters had any idea what they were talking about because THERE. WAS. NO. ARTICLE.

I often find myself dismayed by people who obviously comment without reading the article. (I wrote a whole article once about why people need to stop that nasty habit.) But I've never seen such a blatant example of how common this is. It was like an unintentional sociological experiment that thousands of people failed.

A headline is not an article. Share text is not an article. Why are people sharing something they clearly haven't read? Why are people sharing their thoughts on an article that wasn't even there?

There could have been anything at that link—I could have made stuff up out of thin air, I could have linked to actual fake news sites, I could have brazenly misquoted someone—except Upworthy has standards, thank goodness. Maybe I should feel happy that the people who shared it felt like they could trust the outlet I wrote for, but I'm super uneasy with that. No one should be sharing something they haven't read, no matter who publishes it.

And there's one more element to this that deserves a word: How headlines get crafted.

I'm guessing the reason people didn't bother clicking that link is because the headline was clear and descriptive and neatly summed up the story at a basic level.

The headline gave no details or proof, of course. Nevermind the fact that the article points out an important differentiation between domestic terrorism and homegrown violent extremist terrorism. Nevermind the fact that the article makes clear that white supremacist violence is nothing new. (Sooo many commenters felt the need to point that out.) Nevermind the fact that this administration has slashed programs designed to counter white supremacist violence despite its own intelligence agencies' warnings. All of those things add important context to the story, but the headline is so clear that people don't even know what information they're missing.

Aye, and here's the rub: What would get people clicking and reading is a less clear headline—maybe something like "FBI director tells lawmakers that most domestic terrorists come from a specific group of Americans." But you know what we'd be accused of then? Clickbait. People would complain that we were being vague on purpose, just for clicks. Facebook would ding us and squash our reach because its almighty algorithm would determine that—heaven forbid—we want people to actually click on our content and read it.

If we write clear, concise, informative headlines, people don't read the article. If we write vague headlines that leave people with questions, people complain about clickbait. Writers can't win.

I just want a t-shirt, a banner, a billboard, and a meme that says, "READ THE DAMN ARTICLE, PEOPLE." I also request a parrot that repeats that same phrase all day long. That's literally all I want right now.

Fine people of the internet, we are better than this. We can do better than this. Please don't prove me wrong.

Courtesy of Verizon
True

If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

via @Todd_Spence / Twitter

Seven years ago, Bill Murray shared a powerful story about the importance of art. The revelation came during a discussion at the National Gallery in London for the release of 2014's "The Monuments Men." The film is about a troop of soldiers on a mission to recover art stolen by the Nazis.

After his first time performing on stage in Chicago, Murray was so upset with himself that he contemplated taking his own life.

"I wasn't very good, and I remember my first experience, I was so bad I just walked out — out onto the street and just started walking," he said.

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