Check Facebook right now and let me know what you see.
A few pictures of people you kind of remember? Sure
Semi-coherent rants about Obama or the Eagles or something? Of course
A list about things that only people from Long Island will understand? Probably
A picture of Gandhi or Einstein with a quote that neither said? O. Indeed.
You know what else is littering your feed? A lot of articles that sound something like this:
"(celebrity at an event) and you won't believe what they said next!"
"What this man says about (some sort of wrong in the world) will make you think"
"Derp derp dep and this will blow you mind!!!!!!!!"
We call it click bait.
It's lazy writing.
Headlines are supposed to pull people in. They're supposed to peak our interest in an attempt to get us to read more.
They're not supposed to trick us into reading more.
You should read a headline and say to yourself "this subject matter interests me, let me click this". Not "I normally don't care about Taylor Swift... but she did something that is apparently a big deal... let me click this... o... she wore a dress...and it was blue... ok?"
It is incredibly insulting to us, the average reader. Every time you read something that is supposed to be "everything" or "wins the internet", please interpret that as "hey dummy, click this. Maybe you'll learn something? I don't care, I just used buzz words. Your simple mind will find peace for twenty seconds before you realize this was a waste of time. Wanna feel better? Share this with your friends. I dare you.".
These headlines are either non-sequiturs at best or non-stories at worst.
Click bait headlines are the chain emails of our time.
The "This Man did this and what he did next will give you all the feels" carriers the same credibility as "If you send this to 15 people in the next 15 minutes your crush will call you".
The problem is that this isn't being written by a 9 year old. These are articles being written by people who are supposed to be delivering the news. We look to these outlets as a way to be informed about the world around us.
But this is our reading experience on the internet. I understand that sites need viewers to drive revenue. Why not write compelling articles then to deserve your viewers?
Why do I say it is not compelling?
Because in 140 characters, @savedyouaclick can retweet an article and properly tell us what is in it. If it is that simple, then I'm going to go on a limb and say it's not compelling.
@SavedYouAClick is an account run by Jake Beckman. He has taken to task the click baiters of the world. And we all owe him a huge amount of gratitude.
Here's an example of his handy work:
@SavedYouAClick: Massachusetts, Wyoming, New York, DC, Idaho. RT @CNBC: The 5 places you'll find the rudest drivers in the U.S.:"
I would never click on that link from CNBC because I super do not care about rude drivers in any state any where. But some people might and it's their own perogative to click it. But the article should be interesting enough in it's own right that knowing the answer to the five states should not affect your interest in rude drivers.
Clearly some people are mad. My favorite example was this "Verge" article defending the guy who wrote the semi-interview with David Chase about whether his fictional character (Tony Soprano) died.
When the original interview broke, two things happened.
2. David chase flat out said he was misquoted.
Event number 2 did not stop the wind bags at Verge from coming out against Beckman saying he "ruined an experience". Seriously, they consider it an experience, which was ruined.
Personally, I did not care about that article until I saw @Savedyouaclick's tweet. Since the Sopranos ended, so many people who watched the show have come to the conclusion that Tony died. No really. More work was put into this footage than the Zapruder film.
So when I saw an article saying the contrary, I was interested. Had I not, I would have just passed right on over it. Of course, all of this could have been avoided if the article was called "David Chase says Tony Soprano Did Not Die in Finale". I would have read that because it is something I was interested in.
Similar to that CNBC tweet about the rude drivers earlier. The only thing that would possibly get me to read that article is because Wyoming is ruder than New York? That's... kind of interesting? The article could be called "Wyoming Drivers are More Rude Than New York Drivers" and that is a straightforward and engaging article. No tricks, no platitudes, just information. Done and done. (Also, Leslie Knope and I went to the same school for writing head lines).
People have said @Savedyouaclick is similar the guy in the office who ruins jokes. But I'm OK with someone ruining a joke that's not worth hearing in the first place. I would rather be on the side of the renegade in the office having the nerve to step on the boss' terrible jokes.
Besides, in that analogy, the joke teller starts out like this:
"You'll never believe who walked into a bar"
And then the rest of the joke is pictures of Beyonce looking fierce.
"This Chicken Crossed the road, and what she did next will shock you"
And then it's a picture of a chicken on the other side of the road and cat gifs.
I'm not saying the internet needs policing. It already has enough of that (I look forward to hearing all my grammar errors). But this service is important. People who write click bait headlines should be ashamed of themselves. Especially since these are the top news sources of our time.
New York Times, CBS, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, AOL, The Nation, NPR, Mashable, and even Buzzfeed are all accounts that @savedyouaclick has retweeted this month. Those are all very popular and well respected news site, and Buzzfeed. There is, literally, no need for them to tease the news. We will turn to them regardless (I mean, what else are we going to do? Read a paper? Watch the news on TV? C'mon). We don't want or need you to be the Riddler as a means of delivering the news.
@Savedyouaclick is the Batman to the internet's Gotham. Stopping injustice whenever he sees it. People will read things on the internet (fingers crossed someone reads this) But let's make articles that people will want to read even if the lede isn't buried. We can't win at life by reading an article. We can be entertained and possibly learn something. Mr. Beckman is ensuring that we don't waste our time on things that do neither.
We're better than that and we deserve better writing than that. @Savedyouaclick is out there to make sure we get it.
Neither of them are affiliated with me. I just wanted to let them know that their work is appreciated.