(Someday this’ll make a great title for a Bruce Springsteen parody. Someday.)
A great tragedy has befallen this even greater nation; Stephen Colbert’s final episode of The Colbert Report aired this Thursday, December 18 at 11:30 p.m. I’m sure we’ll all remember where we were at that fateful moment.
Personally, I was getting ready for bed so I could be up and refreshed for a 9:00 a.m. shift at work. I made sure to record it though. What? Don’t look at me that way. I’m a fan, not a fanatic. My own emotions aside, disregarding the fact that I grew up with this man, the political messiah to me over the years, we all lost something truly enlightening that Thursday.
So to follow in Colbert’s footsteps, I’ve picked up the mantle of roaring at everything even slightly “un-American” to keep the spirit alive. Thus the title of my new writing series; “Scorn of the USA.” Today’s segment will deal with something that truly insights my patriotic rage:
As a blogger of modest origins, I understand the need to attract traffic and circulate content across an expanded audience. It’s very clear why the internet insurgents craft links to snag our attention through their manipulative wording, but that need does not justify their actions.
So what exactly is “click-bait”? I’m glad you asked, Greg. We’ve all been on the World Wide Web cruising through sites and articles, minding your own patriotic business, and suddenly you stumble upon a link. “They held a piece of meat in their hands through the bars at the tiger exhibit. You won’t believe what happens next.” This is very deliberately worded to spark an internal dialogue.
You: Well, what happens next? I must know!
Internet Insurgent: Just click and find out, good sir.
You: I shall! (Clicks on the link)
Internet Insurgent: Bahahaha! Fool, you fell for my scheme. Now your attention is all mine!
So what’s wrong with that? Again with the questions, Greg. In a world with an ever increasing amount of sites and writers, shouldn’t we seek any means to make our content stand out? That question speaks to the larger issue at stake, one that insights my red, white, and blue ire every time I ponder it. When did the emphasis swing away from attracting readers with quality content to manipulating them for traffic?
I’ll admit it, I’ve fallen for the bait a few times, but now that I’ve ripped away the Iron Curtain before your eyes, we have all risen to a new level of awareness. Just go on Facebook the next time you seek to waste time, and count how many of these links you see (at least one, if not more). It’s obnoxious at the very least. There used to be a time when titles and links were meant to describe and summarize the writing and media of the page. “Click-bait” still serves to do that, but in one of the most insidious ways possible.
Going with the over-the-top example above, that same title could be reworded like this, “Foolish tourist tempts tigers and receives serious injuries.” It summarizes both the situation and the outcome, letting those who are interested by the subject know that this article is for them. The only real difference is that this phrasing targets the audience that would end up actually reading it. Instead click-bait throws out a lure and reels in everything possible, when most who click will probably not end up staying and absorbing anything from it.
The true heart of it is the values of the writer. Do you write just to generate views and other measurable data as your standards of success? Or do you write to share a message, to pass on knowledge, to lend your voice to the collective? If you voted number one, then I pity you, I truly do. That is why I’m wary of click-bait. It speaks to a singular focus on numbers with no real soul.
Of course there will be dissenters, insurgents, and capitalists that will continue to utilize this tool of manipulation. The best thing you can do is not fall for the scheme, not give them the satisfaction that comes with your click.
I know not all will agree with what I say, I don’t expect them to. If you feel as I do, if you too can tap into the underlying currents of liberty, then you will boycott these soulless attempts to hook our attention. Boycott those who view us as no more than raw numbers that must be channeled into their sites and recorded. Give credence to those with genuine writing meant to inform, not lure.
Just now as I was scanning through the interwebs, I happened upon the perfect example of the kind of link crafting that deserves attention. Let us honor this patriot for swearing off the socialist temptations and giving us a Truly American link:
Damn good idea, too. An American idea.