Love yourselves, you guys. Your time is worth more than this list of “66 Things Everyone from Lost Springs, Wyoming Will Relate To.”
I have a complicated relationship with clickbait in that I hate it with the entirety of my being. Every time I see a clickbait article I want to rip my eyes out and launch them into the sun so that I will never have to see anything so offensive to the eyes ever again in my entire life. But at the same time, I can’t stop clicking these stupid articles.
(I mean, I guess I could always acquire self-control, but I’m trying to be realistic here.)
I’d blame BuzzFeed, but even I have to admit that Buzzfeed sometimes produces actual quality content. I’m a sucker for the Try Guys, Ladylike, and that series where Steven and Andrew drive around and eat food at a wide range of prices.
But besides that, Buzzfeed has shown that pretty much just aggregating funny jokes scattered throughout the internet, making lists of weird stuff on Amazon, telling you what kind of cheese you would be based on your zodiac sign, and asking you “Just How Trash is Your Taste in Complimentary Bread?” is a legitimate business strategy. If this kind of stuff was just isolated to Buzzfeed, then fine, whatever. The disease is localized. But it’s not just Buzzfeed anymore — it’s Upworthy and Brainjet and Viral Catching and 22Words and Laudable and Ranker. Even Answers.com is getting in on this nonsense. I can’t go through my Facebook feed without tripping on one and smashing my face into another. It’s exhausting and mind-numbing and time-killing.
There’s probably some sort of science behind clickbait. There has to be. In my totally unprofessional opinion, it’s the rush you get when you click on “WATCH THIS SOCCER MOM GET DEMOLISHED BY THIS CASHIER” that keeps clickbait viable. The titles of these so-called articles arouses enough interest to get someone to click and then prolongs the pay off. The curiosity can’t be satisfied until you see every item on this list of “18 PERFECT Responses These Students had for Their Teachers” and we all know that there’s going to be more than 18 pictures in this article which is, for some infuriating reason, a slideshow instead of a scrolling list.
And you know you’re going to see this through to the end. Because it’s not just one prolonged build-up and payoff. I mean, the ultimate payoff is when you get to the end of the list of “64 People Who Just Need to Stop,” but the little pay-off, the little reward that keeps you sucked into this nonsense, is what you see on the other side of the next slide button.
Once you escape that 100 slide photo presentation with who knows how many ads on each page, you realize you’ve pretty much just wasted 5 minutes of your life. And then you waste another five minutes of your time on this earth looking through an “article” called “This Kid Just Got Annihilated by His Mom on Facebook” because you just need to know how this kid got what was coming to him.
Let’s be real for a second. I 100% would have found a way to waste my time without clickbait, but the thing about those other wastes of time is that I choose to do it. Sometimes it feels like clickbait bypasses that part of my brain that knows that something is bad for me and directly hits another part of my brain that wants to do it anyway. The only other thing that can really get to me like that is food, but at least food has value beyond instant gratification. Clickbait, I feel, appeals to that part of me that I should have trained out years ago. The part of me that is endlessly curious, but also has the attention span and impulse control of a toddler who had sugar directly injected into her bloodstream.
Like, be curious, but be curious about the right things, not “25+ Extremely Beautiful Minerals And Stones”
It’s the most infuriating waste of time that I have ever encountered in my entire life and the thing that I’m most mad about is the fact that I’m not strong enough to stop myself from clicking.