Clickbait Rant or “What he read next made him throw the laptop out of the window”

Until about a month ago I was not aware of having heard the word “clickbait”, but I was already aware of what it represented. If you’re as un-internet-speak savvy as me I’ll explain with a few examples:

…what he saw next blew his mind”, “…but she NEVER expected this”, “the 10 most amazing life-hacks you didn’t know you didn’t know”.

These are links to fuller stories, or videos, that try to bait you into clicking by a mixture of hyperbole, misrepresentation, withholding of information and downright lies. There is some discussion as to what exactly represents “clickbait” but I’d sum it up as any link that deliberately withholds vital information on what will follow when that information could easily have been included in the link.

I hate these links for a myriad of reasons. When I initially caught on to them I was annoyed at having been duped for some time into clicking on links to articles and videos that I am not remotely interested in reading or viewing. I was annoyed that it had taken so long for it to click that I really was a worm on their marketing hook.

Then I was enfuriated when I realised that these links were ultimately wasting my time. The internet is a huge resource and it is a skill and an effort to use it to find content that we either want to access, or are glad to stumble upon. These links are the antithesis of a contents page, turning our next click into a pot-luck exercise. To add insult to injury, often the reason that content needs to link in the form of clickbait is that the author knows that you wouldn’t bother to click if you knew what was coming. Unlike my temper, my mind has yet to be blown literally or metaphorically by any link I’ve clicked on.

Then I was exasperated because having made the decision to avoid clickbait wherever possible, on principle if nothing else, I’ve found that the compulsive side of me still occasionally can’t resist finding out the shocking truth about my subconscious desires that the government doesn’t want me to know only to find it to be a personality test based on which colour I like best and my favourite flavour of jelly.

The habit of giving clickbait titles has become so common that sometimes even good-quality information has clickbait pointing towards it. This means that if I am strong enough to avoid clicking I am probably missing some stuff I would be pleased to know. And it’s the not knowing I hate…

There has always been an element of enticement on the part of an author to get a potential readership to sample the wares – newspaper titles, book-jacket synopses, film reviews – but it is the lazy nature of clickbait that really winds me up. Rather than a witty newspaper title or a cleverly-worded review which tantalises but doesn’t give away major plot-points, clickbait relies on saying as little about what is coming as possible. And in this instance no news is usually not good news.

87.3% of people won’t like and share this, I know who will!