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Marketplace Morning Report

The button that’s got everyone clicking

Adriene Hill and Aparna Alluri Apr 14, 2015
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The Reddit “Button” that started out as an April fool’s prank has turned into an internet obsession. As of this writing, nearly 750,000 people have pushed it.

What exactly is it? It’s a button with a timer that counts back from 60 seconds. Anyone who had a Reddit account before the day the button launched can push the button and reset the clock. But they can only push once. And no one knows what happens if the clock gets to zero.  

So what’s the big deal? “I think the short answer is, there’s a lot of reasons,” said Kelly Goldsmith, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Northwestern University. She’s been reading what a lot of people have said online about their experience of pushing the button, which range from competition to status.

“But it also seems like there’s a strong sense of affiliation and a strong sense of community,” said Goldsmith. “But on the other hand, it could just be driven by curiosity.”

Curiosity about when the next person is going to push it? Or how long it’s going to keep going? Or what might happen if no one pushed it?

“That’s really what keeps it so mesmerizing,” said Goldsmith.

Although a strong sense of community is making people push the button, Goldsmith said, “the motivating power of curiosity” was part of it too.

“I don’t think gets enough attention in the academic literature, but it’s (curiosity) definitely a strong driving force,” said Goldsmith.

When she first heard about it, she admits she was in favor of people banding together not to push the button so they could see what would happen. But since then she’s changed her mind because she think so many people working together to keep the button going is a positive affiliation. But that doesn’t mean she’s going to push the button right away.

“I would absolutely be of the group that waits to get the clock as low as possible,” said Goldsmith. “Again, just for curiosity’s sake. How low can it go? What would happen if no one pushed it?”

 

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