Click Bait

Google defines click bait as “(on the Internet) content, especially that of a

sensational or provocative nature, whose main purpose is to attract attention and

draw visitors to a particular web page.”

To me, click bait is largely “97-Year Old Michigan Woman Finally Gets Her High

School Diploma,” “Why I Took My 7 Year Old To A Tattoo Parlor,” and “10 Things

Millenials Won’t Spend Time On.” It is headlines that, for some reason, describe

stories that I just have to read. Most of the time, it’s a form of subconscious

procrastination. I give myself a finite number – usually between one and three – of

articles to read before getting back to the work I’m supposed to be doing. Largely

benign, these headlines are the product of society’s willingness to humor ridiculous

stories out of simple curiosity.

Another “genre” of click bait, of the self-help variety, is a more interesting

phenomenon. These headlines are aimed at people’s weaknesses, stories about how

to get people to like you, ten ways to make your skin clearer, or what kind of cardio

will help you shed the most weight by Christmas. This click bait is more malicious, a

part of the media tied up with an agenda to tell individuals that they are not and will

never be good enough. Each headline’s job is to convince the reader that they suffer

from some imperfection: you are unliked, your blemishes are noticeable, you are too

heavy and need to lose weight.

And because of the proliferation of self-help headlines, the incessant barrage of

messages telling everyone how to improve themselves, people start to think that

they need improvement. And while I am cognizant of this phenomenon and aware

of the implications, I still click the link telling me which twelve foods are killer for

belly fat. But I do click them less, and when I do mentally qualify their

recommendations with a reminder that any suggestion is optional and not a

comment on who I am as a person.