Why internet-based persuasion is hard to make persuasive

Joe Chemo | Photo Courtesy
Joe Chemo was a twist on the marketing for Joe Camel.

Balancing facts and feelings in online arguments

Internet-based persuasion is a difficult feat to accomplish without falling into pitfalls of emotional and negative broadcasting.

Recently in my research in classes dedicated to helping students project persuasive posts, I came across an aged but important site entitled, “joechemo.org” which attempted internet-based persuasion intending to help people stop smoking. Using this as an example, I will discuss how internet-based persuasion can or cannot help within its executions of fact and emotion.

Tackling a subject as sensitive and vast as smoking addictions is a difficult task, and despite the website working on some fronts, it failed in most others. The most helpful aspect of the website was an activity page entitled, “Smoking Links.” The page incorporated facts from the World Health organization webpages and explanations in unbiased presentations of how smoking can be damaging to the smoker by simply clicking on the tabs it presented. This website’s strengths lay within its facts and less within its feelings.

Despite this, the site is rife with shortcomings. The first among the website’s weaknesses include its constant painting of tobacco companies as evil and racist. Racism is an important issue we need to face today, but the inclusion of it in this page felt like information meant to trigger negative emotions towards these businesses instead of encouraging the human spirit to conquer addiction which had been its intended goal.

The main problem I noticed within the website was its lack of expressing psychological damage of addiction in general. In explaining how smoking can harm the lives of those around you as well as one’s more intimate liaisons and bodily conduct, it seemed very emotion-driven. In trying to scare and shock, such as describing smoking as “playing Russian Roulette with a gun pointed below the waist,” it edged more towards shock factor than vital information.

If you want to persuade people on an important topic, you should provide criteria for the effects of the unhealthy actions involved. The persuasive piece should not get caught up in emotion but in facts, and the viewers will supply the emotions themselves. Finally, one should not accuse but instead relay and carefully evaluate how a person can better themselves had they fallen into such a trap of addiction.

I’ve learned from experience and now from example that one cannot be helpful in a persuasive post by pointing out issues they have problems with and expect others to have as well. Judgment should be set aside and commendations for those trying to break free of their issues should be given. You persuade through respect and through compassion, actively and not passively.

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