I confess: I love clickbait.
I need to know the secret Donny Osmond just revealed and why some girl’s fiancé was furious when he saw “this” photo of his bride-to-be.
The woman who just adopted two children? Who would not want to know the bombshell discovery she made?
What is the one weird trick that will change my life forever?
And I can’t get through the slide show fast enough to find out what the customer’s note to his waitress said, how the bride got sweet revenge on her cheating groom, and the shocking, jaw-dropping, insane whatever-it-was that had everyone laughing, crying, or gasping.
Frustrating as they can be, with their computer-locking graphics and bouncing screens (contrived so I will accidentally click on one of the sponsor’s links), I love a good slide show with before and after pics of outrageous celebrity weight loss, aging child stars, or plastic surgery gone wrong.
Everyone is freaking out over it
Most of the time, the headline that lures me in is false, but I have to get all the way to the end to find out. For example, I clicked on a link that promised I would learn why Jaden Smith’s parents staged an “intervention” after seeing his appearance. Naturally, the word intervention raised all kinds of assumptions I should have known would be wrong.
The first few slides gave me an excruciating backstory on the Smith family before getting to the cause of Will and Jada’s concern. Their son looked gaunt and gray, the next slides told me. He seemed unsteady and lethargic. Then he landed in the hospital. Of course, I am thinking. The child is on drugs. Who wouldn’t be when his parents showed him absolutely no discipline!
Turns out, young Smith had recently gone vegan. He then, apparently, stopped eating completely because he just got too busy. An altogether unsatisfying explanation after I had spent a good part of my morning clicking through the bait. But what did I expect? Had any clickbait every shocked me, left me gasping, or opened my eyes to some new truth?
Try not to laugh
If I’m being honest, I get the same rush from clickbait that I get when I have a really juicy piece of gossip I can’t wait to share. Having information first and being the source of it for others can feel empowering. This is why gossip is such a difficult sin to overcome. And writers specifically design those headlines to make us feel like they have information we don’t, even if it’s information we don’t really care about, like why Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter hates her.
Of course, I am fully aware that clicking on clickbait increases my chances of infecting my computer with malware or opening it to scammers. But even this is not always enough to deter me from diving in to find out the chilling basement discovery the new homeowners made. The sad fact is that most news headlines are often just as guilty of hyping their promises as clickbait is.