Clickbait is a relatively new word in the English language. According to Wikipedia:
Clickbait is a pejorative term describing web content that is aimed at generating online advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines to attract click-throughs and to encourage forwarding of the material over online social networks. Clickbait headlines typically aim to exploit the “curiosity gap,” providing just enough information to make the reader curious, but not enough to satisfy their [sic] curiosity without clicking through to the linked content.
The very existence of the concept shows that there are enough dimwitted Internet users without any capability to think critically to support a whole industry. Even standard news sites like the HuffPost and CNN are riddled with these attempts to grab the attention of readers and bog them down in an ultimately unsatisfying quest containing numerous listicles. You know, of course, what listicles are. Here are a few examples:
- The ten most perverted actors in Hollywood
- Five ways you can lower your taxes by as much as 20%
- The seven most eye-opening celebrity costumes
You get the picture. And if you haven’t seen several hundred of these in “eye-grabbers” in the last week, you’re not half-trying.
Clickbaiting has gotten so bad that even Facebook was moved to intervene, and there is a hilarious take-off called ClickHole created by the folks who brought you The Onion.
What bothers me is that even supposedly legitimate news stories on the Internet and in newspapers are creating Clickbait-type headlines for stories that are just as unsatisfying as most clickthroughs. One finds these proliferating in articles about nutrition (“lose that ugly belly fat”), national and international news (“five things you must know about ISIS”—a typical listicle), exercise (”this simple exercise will guarantee weight loss”), and just about any other subject.
It is a constant temptation to indulge in this ignis fatuus (“swamp gas”) in a vain attempt to get better informed. The best course is to disbelieve anything that sounds too good to be true. And this relates to everything both on and outside of the Internet.