I might be in a small minority with a controversial opinion here, but I really hate clickbait. Like, hate it. Absolutely detest it. I read a clickbaity article title and it makes me mad. It might even be a good article, who knows? I just can't stand clickbait, and I actively avoid it.
It's just super annoying. I'm tired of clicking an article that sounds interesting only to find one more stale listicle. I'm tired of a three hundred word rant about a hot topic with no sources somehow passing for journalism. I'm tired of seeing the same articles making the same points on twenty different sites. Looking for actual information about anything is so hard because for any topic there are a hundred different clickbait articles about it.
So, clickbait sucks. If that little complaining session didn't convince you, maybe this clickbaity listicle will.
Clickbait is lowering attention spans.
Everyone's heard that humans now have an average attention span that's less than a goldfish's. People have a hard time concentrating for more than a very short article. Is clickbait's short, sensationalized format a cause or a consequence of this? I don't know. Is it helping? Not hardly. Consuming a lot of short, clickbait articles will put your brain in habit of only paying attention for a few minutes at a time. After a while, your brain makes physical and chemical changes to work with whatever habits you have in place. If that means your attention span starts to go down… Maybe you should think about changing something.
On a side note, increasing your attention span is doable. It takes time and building up to your goal. It's like training for a marathon: you won't be perfect at the start, but you can work up to where you want to be. Check out this article for more information on that!
Sensationalism is basically just hype: articles that appeal to your emotions rather than your intellect. Basically, it's articles that focus on topics that will shock or enrage or amaze people but aren't always necessarily as important as other, less interesting things. Think celebrity gossip and drama, murders and wars, half the things Donald Trump says, versus midterm elections, global politics, and other important but rather boring current events. That's not to say there isn't a place to talk about murders and Donald Trump or even celebrity gossip; some of those things are really important, and entertainment isn't bad in and of itself. The problem comes when people put all their focus on sensational stories instead of things that are equally or even more important, such as the state questions you should have voted on in the midterm elections last week. People today are uninformed about a lot of things, especially if they're getting most of their knowledge from social media. Unless an issue is sure to cause an emotional response in people, it will not get talked about, and that's partly thanks to clickbait culture.
Clickbait headlines are manipulative.
Honestly? I'm tired of being manipulated. Either the title is straight up false advertising, or the article is a rant full of unsubstantiated claims, or it's simply another mind-numbing "10 Things That You'll Never Believe!" No matter what, I always come away from clickbait feeling disappointed, like I just wasted two minutes of my life I'll never get back.
Really, clickbait titles promise payoff that they rarely actually deliver. Have you ever actually been surprised by the fifth entry about why Millennials like avocados? Have you ever really felt like a clickbait article was worth your time to read. Unless it was written with a heavy dose of irony in there, I would guess no. Genuine clickbait articles that actually really dry.
Clickbait adds to over-saturation.
And this leads to it being much more difficult to find out what the truth is. People tend to think that if they read something in an article online, it's true, whether or not its backed up by facts or not. And once one person puts wrong information in an article, it's only a matter of time before other people write more on the topic. Before you know it, a good portion of the public believes a lie because of clickbait.
I'm not saying that clickbait writers are malevolent. Unless someone specifically sets out to write fake news, I don't think any clickbait writers are trying to mislead people. It's just that a lot of the time, false information gets spread, and a lot of it is thanks to clickbait writers who don't stop to fact check. And when there's so much information out there, it's hard to tell what's real and what's not.
For irony’s sake, this “No. 5 Will Surprise You!” is actually just me trolling you.
Does this not just throw you back to 2012?
The content just generally... sucks?
Maybe I'm just overly critical, but personally, I never feel satisfied when I'm done reading an article. There's a reason I generally choose to avoid them all together. They waste my time, and I never learn anything new. They all say the same thing, they're all tired, they're all boring, they're all just generally uninspired.
Clickbait's entire purpose is just to generate views.
If you even clicked this article, I got a view. It doesn't matter how much you read, or if you even read anything. If you click the article, I get a view. And apparently, that's what I want to shoot for.
If you want to get views, cool. Good for you. Personally, that's not what's important to me. I enjoy having a platform where I can write about my opinions and things that affect me. I write for myself, and if other people like what I write, cool! If not, I don't care (A note to my editor: please don't shoot me). I like what I write, and I feel like the content of my articles is generally meaningful and enjoyable to read. Those are the kind of articles I like to read, but I never seem to be able to find them amid the oceans of clickbait.
This actually explains why the content is normally very thin in clickbait articles. If the whole point is to get someone to click on it, then who cares what the article actually says? Leading to my last point…
Clickbait reinforces a lack of depth in society.
Clickbait articles tend to be severely lacking in depth. They are very bare listicles that say the same thing as every other listicle, on topics that frankly are incredibly boring. They are impassioned rants about current issues with no sources to back up what they say. They are emotional grabs, exploiting a very happy (or sad) story just so people can read them and feel inspired or indignant or good about themselves.
This is lack of depth is leading to people who find it harder to think deeply. If you give a society shallow articles for long enough, that society will lose the ability to think critically. I am being very general here, of course; I'm fully aware that our country is filled with people who are much smarter than me and who can think critically. But it's also filled with some pretty dumb people, like the ones you see when news stations go talk to people on the streets and that girl thinks Barack Obama is a type of Mexican food. People who spend hours scrolling through Facebook or Twitter and read clickbait article after clickbait article. I'm not saying clickbait is the cause of all the stupidity in the world; after all, if clickbait were gone, people would just watch slime videos, right? I'm just saying that it's contributing to a bigger problem, and why should we contribute to that?
So, I hope this gives you a little insight into my intense hatred for clickbait. Sensationalized titles, zero content, and manipulation all work together to leave me feeling disappointed and unfulfilled after reading clickbait. This can start a vicious cycle of reading more and more and hoping to finally be satisfied, or you can do I what I do: choose to avoid it. Look for better things to read, to watch, to do with your time. Look for real articles about important issues, or even just non-clickbait articles about the subjects you enjoy (they're out there, I promise!). Use your time for better things than 15 Adorable Pictures Of Frogs In Costumes (No. 12 Will Melt Your Heart!).