Okay I’m going to paint a picture for you. I’ve had a long day, two whole hours on uni campus and I’m bored. I need an emotional release. Facebook, come to my rescue. I scroll. Past the engagements, past “Egypt 2014”, until I find the thing I was looking for; “Can you believe this is what John Terry said?”. What did he say? Well if it’s made its way onto my newsfeed it must be worth a look. I take a deep breath, and click. Boom. Bet 365 advert. I feel like a fool. Again I believed in the social media gods and they failed me.
I feel this is becoming more common, just headlines on my social media accounts, endless clickbait posing outlandish questions or making vague statements that most of the time I know will be clickbait, but what if, just once it isn’t, I can’t help myself. Now I have no deep issue with reading a sub par news story, it’s annoying, but you need views and I’m naive. But when it’s linking me to betting sites or spamming me, and you only have to be thirteen years old to create a Facebook account, the consequences can be greater. Nothing worse than coming home from work to find your teenage son has signed you up to some dodgy mailing sites to feast his eyes on some NSFW Nigella Lawson holiday pics.
These spam sites are taking popular internet trends and incorporating them into their clickbait headlines, just to fill your junk box with Russian brides looking for love. Do you remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? That thing where we all threw water on each other in your mates garden to raise awareness and get a few likes in the process? One site led us to believe there was a shocking video of a challenge going wrong. How wrong we asked? Did the bucketer fall over mid pour? Did the bucketee drown due to the sheer volume of said water? Are we able to watch that on Facebook? All these questions were ultimately unanswered as the site asked you to update a fake video player in order to watch, only to be lumped with a Trojan virus on your brand spanking new MacBook.
What initially dragged us to the webpages was the strength of the content, the insightfulness of the topic and the style of the writer. These unfortunately cost time and money. On the internet though anyone can be a writer, and when you maybe don’t have the finesse of a GQ writer you need to gain traction in other ways. The way to this is through the headline. Anyone can write a headline, and if it’s interesting or obscure enough people will click, doesn’t matter how much the reader likes the other content, the views are just the same.
Sure they won’t come back, but luckily for you there’s a billion other people that you can reach to with it, and with the access to content becoming quicker and easier, we’ll likely read fewer and fewer before deciding to take the plunge and read a whole paragraph, so these headlines may become even more necessary. Ultimately we may just decide to ignore this suggested content altogether, missing out on the actual stories that are worth talking about and discussing, which is the whole point of these platforms. Surely that’s better than “Egypt 2014”, surely.