Let’s start with an analogy.
You’re standing in the grocery store checkout line. You’re bored and impatient and just want to move through the line. So, you deflect from your discomfort and start to look around. What do you see? Magazines with huge, bold, dramatic headlines…typically a headline about a famous person in some form of drama. A famous couple splitting up and “horrible-her” taking the kids or “selfish-him” not paying child support and taking the dogs. Another “star” and his affair with three women and devastated wife and family. A famous sports figure accused of domestic violence, and now in his personal misery of isolation and addiction. Something big, something OMGish!!!, something that baits you and grabs your attention from the boring checkout line. So, you grab the magazine to check it out. The story inside is vague and doesn’t even come close to the dramatic cover page. You’ve fallen for the bait.
You’ve been tricked, deceived, manipulated, and you bit onto the hook.
And the story wasn’t true…they rarely are. They are a set up that tap into your curiosity.
That’s also what happens online with clickbait.
Dramatic headlines, deceit, manipulation, fake stories, misleading titles, all in an effort to “bait” you into clicking when you’re bored, impatient or unsuspecting.
There are the “10 Most Inspiring People in the World” articles, where you have to been baited into clicking 40 times to see the 10 people and 30 advertisements; there are dramatic stories about death, suicide, violence, and other extreme situations that bait you into finding out what happened; and sensationalized political opinions and stories that bait you into polarized disagreement with your fellow human beings.
All to get clicks. All to get attention and make money. All that seduce and manipulate you with a fake and dramatic headline.
So, why am I talking about this today?
I expect that companies will do whatever they can to hook you into their agenda. Where I struggle is when it happens with online creators that I admire because their authentic and real content has inspired me. When these figures create titles and stories that are misleading, solely to get clicks on their content, I don’t expect it from them and find it manipulative, deceitful, and in really intelligent and highly expansive words, a letdown. I stop wanting to “click” on their “bait” anymore and so I quit following them because a level of trust has been broken. Fool me once…you know the rest.
Being authentic in a world where “clicks” give the impression of worth and success can be challenging.
Yet, I believe we have an obligation, especially those of us in the “helping” and self-growth professions who are putting out content, to be honest and forthright with our messages.
We know that mobile devices are addictive and seductive. Being true to ourselves and our message, so that the person on the other end of the “click” can have a pretty good idea of the proposed topic, is a part of creating better connections and less stress in the world. Creating hype or deceitful bait is not cool…at least it’s not for me and in a really judgmental statement: will change the way I see you…or stop seeing you.
Lastly, if you’re a bait-clicker, try to be mindful of your “clicks.” If you’re aware that those magazines in the check-out line are full of false stories, also be aware that much of what you get baited to click online is also false.
What you allow into your mind and your heart is fuel and food for your soul.
For your heart’s sake, try to be conscious of the bait that is being laid out in front of you and allow it to float on by without taking a bite.