… I got a snack.
Sorry. Not what you were expecting? Well, welcome to my world where I find myself clicking through links on social media despite knowing that the other end of the link will bring me junk. Headlines are supposed to do hard work but the ante has been upped by motivating clickbait that plagues the internet. Clickbait are those headlines that you can’t resist clicking - the salacious and tempting ones that you click only to find recycled Top 10 content on the other side.
“Avoid the flu with this one weird trick”
“400 signs you have free time”
“Most embarrassing reactions to trying ghost peppers”
Why do we fall for it?
- Most obviously, we are driven because we are curious. Curiosity is at the core of all good headlines but when it comes to clickbait it is more that the reader has to have the cliffhanger solved. Even though we rationally KNOW that the headline’s promise won’t be paid off there is a little part of us that wants to believe that at the other end of the headline the “5 Secrets of Napping to Lose Weight” is really life-changing
- We also harbor anxiety that the holy grail of tips/recipes/interviews/photos are actually at the other end of that link and that by not clicking your life would be unfulfilled.
- The unconscious importance of social currency also drives the click. We click so that we can share the content before anyone else. This often means that we don’t even read the entirety of the content before we call it a “must read” and post it on Facebook. (This is actually a whole other syndrome called sharebait but that is for another day. There has been research that there is no correlation between people sharing and people actually reading what they are sharing.)
Clickbait has gotten a pretty bad rap and companies like Facebook and Google have already put limits and filters to spare their users the temptation. Beware though because it seems that the language of clickbait has been given a kinder, gentler euphemism known as the curiosity gap.
Jon Stewart once said that clickbait headlines remind him of carnival barkers. That said, step right up and find out 10 reasons we will have an avocado shortage.
by Jen Drexler, Senior Vice President