2 Key Traits of Content That ‘Breaks the Internet’

The internet is all shook up. As you’ve probably seen, the addictive Red Dot Eye Test has been making the rounds throughout the news and has generated chatter on social media.

The internet is all shook up. As you’ve probably seen, the addictive Red Dot Eye Test has been making the rounds throughout the news and has generated chatter on social media.

The test is simple: Calm your mind and look closely at the red circle. Can you see anything hidden within? Some people say they see a cat, or even the outline of North America. Others are claiming that it’s a horse. Cue internet excitement similar to that of the infamous Blue/Black or White/Gold Dress phenomenon.

Playful, interactive content that tickles the internet raises broader questions on engagement, enjoyment and sharing. What is it about content like the Red Dot Eye Test that elicits such strong reactions from people across the globe? Why is this content so addictive? In short, “What breaks the internet?”

I believe that there are two basic, human factors that make content like this addictive: an element of challenge and the promise of personal insight. The Red Dot Test checks both of those boxes.

The conquest

At heart, everyone loves a good challenge–it’s part of our innate curiosity. It’s impossible to ignore a seemingly easy exam that determines your mental age, mastery of a subject or even your eyesight. But I write, “seemingly easy,” because content like the Red Dot Eye Test can be easily accessible and immediately gratifying, while also being genuinely thought-provoking and challenging.

Interactive formats–whether it be flip cards, quizzes, polls or galleries–are very well-suited to this type of “challenge” media, as they allow for greater engagement and interaction with the content. Consider another incredibly popular item – the Photographic Memory Test. Posted in March, this item rapidly generated millions of engagements, and it was embedded on notable outlets like IFLScience and The Daily Mail. Overall, the item garnered 3.5 million views.

Much like the Red Dot Eye Test, the Photographic Memory Test is, as its name suggests, a test. A viewer needs to concentrate on each part of the content in order to recall the various nuances of the images, in much the same way he or she needs to zone in on the center of the red dot.

This content is exceptional in that it spurs deep engagement with the material–a nice departure from a lot of the ephemera that you often see on the Internet. And it’s also great for publishers because the sustained interaction reinforces a true two-way relationship between themselves and their audience–all because the content in question is very much driven by a sense of challenge. The item becomes a conquest for the reader.

Human insight

But, of course, there is also the second and equally important aspect of insight. It’s the part that comes after you’ve completed the Photographic Memory Test or seen a horse in the red dot; it asks, “What does this say about me?” There is something cerebrally ticklish about engaging with content that is both fun and challenging, and then sitting back and thinking, “How do I relate to this content? What does it convey about me as an individual?”

A great example of this is insight aspect is a quiz asking readers “What Is Your Age Based on How You See Colors?” The item quickly garnered a tremendous amount of attention, including 9.8 million views and 2.4 million additional views to the Japanese translation of the item–not to mention, the completion rate was 94 percent.

As its name suggests, the quiz is a rapid analysis of how you see colors–not so different from an exam at an optician. There is the aforementioned challenge component, but then at the end, the nervous sense of anticipation before the results offer perspective into the capabilities of the test-taker. The insights delivered at the end of the quiz are the gratifying payoff for those who engaged.

It is ultimately these two components–challenge and the promise of insight–that spur users to share content on their social channels. Readers want their friends to experience the same sort of fun challenge that they themselves enjoyed, share their results and then compare them with their close circle to see how their peers’ results stack up against their own.

Addictive content like the aforementioned has created a personal, playful experience that taps into the fundamental human emotions of curiosity, tenacity and discovery. It is our natural desire to share that is the catalyst to these items becoming immensely popular and “breaking the internet.” And it’s that personal, human experience of challenge and insight that we believe hits the spot … or the dot!

Shachar Orren is vice president of content at Playbuzz.