A Rant About Clickbait of All Shapes and Sizes on Facebook (and Other Social Media Platforms)
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- There Are TWO Tigers In This Picture, Can You Spot The Second One? 99% of Viewers Can’t! (WordPorn.com)
I have a friend on Facebook; he’s a very nice guy. He cares deeply about his fellow man and the world around him. He also reads a lot of suspect websites, and takes them at face value. He is either unwilling or unable to discern a legitimate news site with one that is satirical, obviously biased, or existing simply as clickbait.
- BREAKING: Federal Judge Delivers FATAL Blow to GOP, Strikes Down Voter Suppression (DETAILS) (BipartisanReport.com)
On September 12 of this year, the venerable Oxford English Dictionary added “clickbait” to its list of entries, along with “binge-watch”, “humblebrag”, “vape” and “neckbeard”, to name a few. It defines “clickbait” as “n.: (informal) (on the Internet) content…whose main purpose is to attract attention and draw visitors to a particular web page“.
- JUST IN: Oprah Winfrey Releases MAJOR Political Announcement, GOP Left FUMING (VIDEO) (BipartisanReport.com)
I hate clickbait, almost as much as I hate passive-aggressive posts on Facebook. (You know, the posts that insinuate if you don’t repost something, or like something, or share something on your status that someone else has posted, then you don’t care, you aren’t a good friend or, quite possibly, you are going to hell: “Every person has 1000 wishes. A cancer patient only has one wish, to get better. I know that 97% of Facebookers won’t post this as their status, but my friends will be the 3% that do. In honor of someone who died, or is fighting cancer – post this for at least one hour….” Nothing will have me ignoring a post faster, no matter how worthy the underlying sentiment, than this passive-aggressive cra…., um, material.)
- Almost nobody is able to score a 6 or better in this History Trivia quiz. (CAN YOU BEAT MY SCORE? CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT!)
Passive-aggressive posts, though, are easy to ignore. (If you have a friend that is so hyper-sensitive that they will drop you because you don’t pass along a daisy-chain of sentimentality, then good riddance.) Clickbait, though, is more insidious. Yes, those who launch those passive-aggressive posts are hoping for a payoff down the line, but the clickbait ones are counting on it.
- Can You See This Number? Take This Fun Eye Test to Check Your Vision (Earthables.com)
Many of the clickbait sites are fairly benign – they are relying on the clicks to bolster their visibility numbers, to make them more attractive to potential advertisers. They are annoying – especially those who entice you in, blather on with little or no actual content on their front page, and then require you to click – even click repeatedly – to get to the actually gist of the piece (if there even ends up being one).
- This Inkblot Test Will Determine if You Are a Narcissist, Psychopath, Both, or Neither (MysticalRaven.com)
Or they keep leading you on, with questions that will supposedly tell you what kind of temperament or personality you have, or how smart you are, or how intuitive or skilled or talented you are, as if ten arbitrary questions or one variance in pixel gradation can accomplish the same thing as medical professionals and decades of research and development. This is simply a marketing ploy, and although not noble, it is not illegal or even unethical. There is a certain level of gullibility that many of us are willingly enter into in order to just have a bit of fun (kind of like a suspension of disbelief that is necessary for theatrical and cinematic endeavors). There’s nothing really wrong with that, as long as you don’t take the danged things seriously.
- Have Your Personality Analyzed! (EN.Nametests.com)
There are far more insidious clickbait sites, of course. The easy to understand ones lead the unsuspecting dupe to eventually click on a link that will download malware onto the user’s computer, or in some iterations mine information that can be used for criminal purposes. Yes, they are illegal, but also hard to catch. And many of us – hopefully most of us – know better than to click on an attachment or link that is highly suspicious – or even slightly suspicious.
- BREAKING: Benghazi Victim Chris Stevens’s Sister Releases GAME CHANGING STATEMENT About Hillary Clinton [READ HERE] (RealTimePolitics.com)
But in my opinion, the clickbait sites that are the most reprehensible are the ones that deal with misinformation. For these sites, the agenda is not in the software, but in the manipulation of the loyalties of those who peruse them.
- TRUMP JUST REMOVED HIS NAME FROM HIS HOTELS DUE TO PLUMMETING BUSINESS (OccupyDemocrats.com)
Now, because I’m a bleeding heart liberal, I don’t have a lot of clickbait on my site that tries to sway my political opinions to a conservative slant. But if anyone – anyone – thinks that information manipulation is limited to only conservatives or liberals, then they truly are delusional. Since I’m using actual headlines from my own Facebook feed (from only a couple of days, mind you), it skews Democratic, but I’ve worked very hard to keep from any political propagan…. er, clickbait from either side invading my space. It’s an illusion of control, but sometimes that’s all we’ve got.
- BREAKING: The Libertarian Party Just DROPPED The BIGGEST BOMBSHELL In U. S. ELECTION HISTORY! (RealTimePolitics.com)
But regardless what side of the aisle you hang out on, I hope we can all agree that lying in order to promote an agenda – no matter what the platform – is wrong. Yet it happens so freakin’ much. The internet is rife with it, not just Facebook, and not just aimed at the Presidential race, even though that right now is incessant and mind-numbing. And so many people – not just hateful people – pass that information on as if it were gospel. Like my well meaning, big hearted friend.
- Doctor’s Warning: Never Clean Your Child With Baby Wipes No Matter What (HealthEternally.com)
It’s everywhere, this misinformation, this willingness to accept that which defies intellectual thought, defies even a modicum of discernment. Polarizing politics or supposed scientific malfeasance or corporate accountability (or lack thereof) or moral attributes – clickbait sites incite the adherents of strongly held yet rarely examined belief systems into downloading and linking and passing on the most outrageous stuff, and it happens over and over and over again. I read that 6 out of 10 people will forward a post without ever having clicked on it themselves (this from a study performed by Columbia University and the French National Institute; and yes, I verified that the link from the Washington Post accessed the actual abstract of the study). I mean, c’mon, people!
- Why People Under 35 Are So Unhappy (QZ.com)
So what do we do when up against such overwhelming odds? How do we stem the tide of so much manipulation? Simple. Don’t engage. Don’t click. Don’t pass anything without verifying it first. Challenge posts you see that are full of misinformation (this can be done nicely, neutrally, with civility). Be aware of your own biases. Just like the young man and the beach full of stranded starfish, clickbait can’t be alleviated, but every little bit helps.
- There’s a Fish Hiding Amongst These Octopuses (MentalFloss.com)
And don’t sweat the small stuff. Keep everything in perspective. After all, it’s nice to know that of all the Bennet sisters, I’m most like Jane. And honestly, it’s easy to find the second tiger; it doesn’t take being in the upper 1% to see it.
You don’t even need to click on anything.
~ Sharon Browning