Clickbait & Things That Go Bump On The Web
By: Bill the Butcher
Remember the good ol’ days when the internet was young, and you’d see a topic, highlighted in a blue font, with a line under it? Little Girl Gets Leg Bit Off By Alligator.
You’d click it and voila! There’s an article with a picture of a one-legged little girl, a crying mother, and a deputy sheriff with a real nice pair of alligator shoes! You feel really sorry for the little girl, but you’re out of beer and the store’s about to close. There are priorities!
This was before Wall Street became Main Street, and sponsored ads began to pop up everywhere. I do mean pop up, and I emphasize everywhere! Long ago in a land far, far away I read a reply to a question that was posed in a chat room wherein someone asked about being asked to buy some internet protocol. The answer was to avoid that because the Internet is free. And it was . . . back then! The ultimate implementation of the free exchange of ideas no matter how wild or new from anyone who could pay the light bill and a few who couldn’t. Mankind had arrived at the Age of Aquarius!
And the sunshine was replaced by provocateurs peddling every kind of snake oil they could put on a little sugar cube. We traded our spaceship for a Yellow Submarine. It started small. Games for instance. You’d buy Flight Simulator, copy it, and give it to all your friends. Then slowly, insidiously, access began to be denied. Soon you couldn’t copy the code. You couldn’t even see it. Then it couldn’t be bought on a CD. The CD had gone the way of all flesh. But it could be downloaded. This worked well for a while. I mean with updates your simulator could simulate a real airplane. That is until Microsoft came up with accessories. You could buy all sorts of extras, and that was cool. It made your app better than the original. Until you downloaded an update and discovered that accessories now included WINGS as an option! Soon that dog would not hunt, and that plane wouldn’t fly.
This put the taste of blood in the mouths of developers, writers, and editors. With the right App, the snappiest hook, and the smoothest platform, any booger picking nerd could become a millionaire overnight. Selling neutrons for atoms. And the public loved it. Because it was easy! Put in your card information, download the app, and bend over. It’ll only hurt for a little while.
But, after all is said and done, at least you were buying something! Even if it were a Sopwith Camel with only one wing. You could always pretend you were crop dusting. But there was gold in them thar fields. Addiction is a malignant thing, the Z Generation is stupid, and games were just a gateway drug.
Information, Ideas, Theory, and Opinions. There is an overwhelming mass of information. We live and thrive on these things. And everyone looks for a freebie. Everyone likes something for nothing. And nothing is what the internet is. Cyber cotton candy. Eat it up! Back in the day, before Google, it was challenging to find something on a subject you were checking out, but it could be done. You could type in Wart on end of nose, and after many tries the computer would tell you Cut off with sterilized razor blade. Was it always right? Well, no, but it beat walking down to the public library. Wait! The library is still free. I digress.
This menagerie made the evolutionary leap to all areas of the internet. It expanded our language, giving us words no one had ever heard before. And one of those words was ClickBait. Ever hear fish or cut bait?
Then, suddenly, without warning, Web MD became a doctor visit. You had to wade through all the ads to find the razor blade, and still had to send a picture of the wart to Dr. Phil (He charges by the way) so he can refer you to a Wartiologist who will then sell you his new improved razor blades specifically designed for nose warts. As opposed to genital warts which require another type of medical procedure entirely. Or rectal warts, especially if they originated from the aforementioned nose warts. Highly malignant and if you have one on your nose and up your colon it says a lot about your approach to life. Think about that. Take all the time you need. Oh, FYI, down in Texas we have a saying. Doctor Phil ain’t a doctor!
Clickbait crept in so softly that nobody knew it was there, like an unemployed brother in law in your back bedroom, but once it bites you it’s presence is definitely obvious. Did you notice that after going down multiple internet rabbit holes you automatically know what that term means? Put clearly it means click but don’t get. Original clickbait would lead you to something that wasn’t all you expected but it eventually developed into clicking and not getting anything promised by the link. It went from the little girl only lost her little finger to no picture of a little girl at all. And the picture you click on is all but guaranteed not to be anywhere in the article. Or an enticing headline promising some recently discovered fact about Shirley Temple’s sex life until you discover she didn’t even have one. Gosh! That’s news! She never had to go to the bathroom either. Hey, you think I’m kidding. I read an article explaining just why she was singing about a good ship while licking a lollipop. Ha! Now half of you stopped reading and went looking for that. I lied, ok? It was a joke! Now, where was I?
And while you’re plowing through ad after ad to promote your testosterone you eventually find yourself reading another article that was grafted onto the original. So, you try to push the back button only to find another ad. And none of this has anything to do with the one legged girl!
And Facebook is the worse. If you click on some article about twenty-five things that girls think about in the shower it will freeze on a blank page long about item fifteen and you still don’t see what you came to see. Or the NEXT, NEXT, NEXT thing. You’ve seen it. One or two lines, then a big red NEXT box you have to click in order to read on. And these guys are not writers. They are the most long winded bunch of Jack-a-lopes who ever abused a keyboard. All hiding behind a clickbait headline like The Sad End of Pope John XXIII! (He died of old age!)
The obvious cause of this is the internet has finally run out of something to say. There is nothing new under the sun. There are only seven deadly sins and the ancients pretty well covered them all. I’m not even gonna touch on news services enticing you to subscribe, ie pay to read past the headline. I’m not gonna pay you to lie to me! I pay politicians to do that.
You must develop clickbait skills. Never click on anything that’s sponsored. That announces straight out that what your hoping to see is not there. Touch your friends. That tells you they are real. Everyone else is not real. No matter how pretty she is, no matter who he says he knows. Nobody you meet on the web is who they claim to be. Why else are they on the web. The very instant an article, newspaper or personal note deviates, you deviate. If something is wildly interesting don’t waste your time. Oh, nobody blew up the Pentagon yesterday, by the way. It would be good for world peace if so, but nah! Didn’t happen.
Clickbait is the exhibition of the Big Lie. If you’re gonna tell a lie, make it a big one. And if you tell it long enough it will become the truth. But if any part of that truth is a lie then it’s all a lie. You can’t pick up a turd by the clean end. If you have a little bit of it in your hand, you have it in your hand. And as the prophet, Meat Loaf told us, It puts a stain on all your clothes and no detergent gets it out!
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