What you read next may SHOCK you


I regret to inform you that this post will not contain any intriguing information; you will not leave with your mind blown and your mouth agape. I have merely taken a relatively uninteresting topic and slapped on a captivating title. While you may learn something from this post, the knowledge you gain will not be nearly as groundbreaking as you had anticipated. You feel betrayed and gullible for falling for a very clearly fabricated title, yet it will probably happen again. And again. But why?

“Click-baiting” is a widely-used technique on the internet to entice users to click on an article or a link, usually by companies that generate revenue per click or websites that want more views for their posts. Common examples usually involve key words and phrases like “SHOCKING” or “WHAT THEY WON’T TELL YOU” in addition to exclusively using superlatives to describe the content of a post. This is not to say that interesting titles are considered to be clickbait but rather, titles that make promises on which the article does not deliver. Yet the strange thing is regardless of how many times we recognize a clickbait title, many of us will continue to click on the link and then feel foolish for doing so.

Why do we keep falling for clickbait?

Well, the main reason is that we are innately curious creatures. Due to the “information-gap” theory, we are unable to leave a gap between what we know and what we want to know. Clickbait is comprised of just that; it gives you just enough information to have an idea of what the article is about but not nearly enough to be satisfied.

Effective clickbait often also uses human emotion to its advantage, usually focusing on the strongest of human emotions: anger. Editors will deliberately try to manipulate readers by stringing together words that will inevitably ‘trigger’ us. Clickbait can also be effective in tending to emotions that are more positive as well, such as excitement or surprise. In fact, studies show that articles that elicit strong negative or positive reactions from readers tend to be more popular than those that are more neutral.

So is clickbait evil? Should we go to drastic lengths to avoid it?

Is it annoying? Most definitely.
Is it often a scheme to make money off of you? Usually.

But are we fools if we choose to see what it has to offer us anyway?

Now that you know what clickbait is and the tricks used to implement it, you can freely peruse the interwebs knowing that you will no longer fall for the mind tricks and bamboozles, right? Most probably not. Curiosity will almost always overshadow common sense. So the one piece of advice I can leave you with is: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.