Modern Internet media does not care if you are up to date on the news. They don’t worry if their opinion is biased or their facts are incorrect. You might want to learn a better way to tie your shoes, but who cares if you adopt this new strategy or not? Oh, and stop complaining that you have to go through that Top 100 Games of All Time list one game at a time. All the better, as far as they see it.
And there’s no Scarlett Johansson pics here, either.
No, the Internet is all about that click. Bout that click. Bout that click. (No synopsis.) Since the dawn of social media, the race for the perfect headline far outweighs the quality of the content. It won’t matter how much you read the article, so long as you clicked it and the ads start pouring onto your screen.
Reputation? Who cares? The majority of the time you’re clicking on a link, you don’t even know where you’re headed. The headline captured your attention, not the news source. Think about how you found this article…did you want to learn about clickbait or were you just wanting to see nude pics of Scarlett Johannson? Did you even remember what the first word of the headline was by the time you hit the end? Yeah? You’re a liar.
You may not even realize how much the headlines are baiting you to click by holding back key information. Here’s a sampling of stories I saw in just the last hour:
- The Ravens head of security was charged for an alleged sex offense. (Who was it? What was it??)
- Dashcam Captures Fireball Streaking Over East Coast (Oh, I gotta see this!)
- Famous Voice Actress Dies at 51 (Oh no! Was it my favorite character?)
- This fruit commonly found in your refrigerator might kill you (Akkk, is it strawberries!?)
In many ways, this concept was created by your local news stations. Back when I could stand to watch it, I remember right before the commercials would come on they’d tease you with what was coming up. Often times the story would be several commercial breaks away! Almost always it was about an actor coming out as gay…but they wouldn’t say who. Maybe a restaurant chain going out of business, but you only got hamburger closeups as a clue. They wanted to keep you watching through the commercials…because that’s how they made their money. Sometimes it would be an alarming story about a fugitive on the run — but they’ll tell you more in just 10 more minutes.
It’s far more momentary now; you just need to click this one time. But hey, these sites are even mastering the technique to keep you clicking from story to story endlessly! Ever find yourself looking at a simple pregnancy timelapse and then…oh, what’s this? Engaging content right at the end there. It’s no accident, of course. MOAR CLICKBAIT!
In fact, it’s gotten so bad that there are Twitter accounts devoted to summarizing clickbait down to just a few words so you can avoid clicking through to the website. My favorite is @SavedYouAClick:
15. RT @IGN: How many millions did The Interview make online this weekend?
— Saved You A Click (@SavedYouAClick) December 29, 2014
And they’ve noticed.
Been to NBC News lately? Their site is loaded with video. It’s the section right between “Featured News” and…”Sports”. Heck, it comes before “U.S. News!” Most of the time it’s just them re-packaging videos from YouTube, too. And it’s there because they know that people qill click them. A lot.
And there’s nothing you can do to resist.