Ruknoon Shadid Dinder

Cannon Editor

Are you curious to know my secret? Great! But before we get to that (and I promise I have an actual technique that works flawlessly) let’s talk about how headlines such as these work to get your clicks and why honest, hard-working journalists like us despise them. But if your reaction to this headline ranges anywhere from mild amusement to annoyance, then congratulations! You have attained Nirvana and this article is not for you.

It is the golden rule of journalism: Grab your reader’s attention right away. You cannot expect your reader to stick around after a drab introduction and headlines are a big part of that. Good headline writing has long been considered a skill but, in the digital age, a new word has become synonymous with journalism – clickbait. Put simply, it is a headline which tempts the reader to click on the link to the story. But the name is used pejoratively to describe headlines which are sensationalised, turn out to be adverts or are simply misleading. It all started with a certain business model first adopted on a large commercial scale by Youtube, where content creators were paid for the number of views they got on their videos and every click tallied as a view. It quickly turned into an exploitation scheme, as creators realised they just need flashy titles and thumbnails for people to click on their videos. It could have been a video of them chewing gum 12 hours straight for all they cared. They were getting that bread regardless of what they put up. And true content creators suffered. It was one of the reasons big channels with truly immersive content in 2012 like Nigahiga were essentially dead by 2015. They were clicked out of business.

Like every other digital trend online, mainstream media started adopting this clickbait business model almost exactly 2 years later* (It’s called the RK principle of online diffusion, look it up). News outlets realised that articles like “Did you know Donald Trump is a lizard just like Mark Zuckerberg? Read all about it.” generated more interest than “Paris environment conference agrees to cut carbon emissions by 40%”. As writers got the liberty to write whatever they wanted as long as they got the clicks, the Youtube fiasco ensued all over again. I like calling 2016 “The golden year of clickbait”. Especially leading up to the US election, the art of clickbaiting was so finely tuned, I could not distinguish the truth from the pile of lies.

And therein lies the problem with clickbait. Clickbait is like the Lil Pump of journalism. It is flashy and looks fun and interesting but speaks pure nonsense (what even is “Esketit”?). You and I may be able to tell that Hillary Clinton’s alien child is “fake news” but sweet old Tiffany who runs a bakery store in Yukon and probably does not know much about the internet cannot. We laugh but this has led to much more serious consequences. For example, if someone writes a clickbait article about a sexual assault incident it can destroy a person’s life. I have seen people who have bought massive shares of a company after believing in their new “miracle” product to eradicate diseases, only to have lost everything when that product turned out to be hand sanitizer. 

To cap it off, I’ve been writing stuff for as long as I can remember. From the first poem I wrote in kindergarten about my cat to this one, every piece I wrote was meant to provide an insight into how I thought about things, to engage my readers. I don’t care if the only person who reads my article is my mum. I want her to learn something from it. Clickbait to me is playing with a person’s feelings, their emotions. Clickbait is like that girl you fell in love with and decided was the one until you realised she only wanted you because she was feeling lonely and ditched you a few months after she got the attention she needed. It is a dirty, dirty trick employed to make a quick buck and, in my opinion, a terrible thing to do. Journalism is meant to educate the masses, not cause mass dissent. I would like to end my ramblings by asking everyone to say no to clickbait. Don’t let the Tiffanys of the world suffer any longer.

Now, as promised, my secret to quitting caffeine addiction:

Basically, everytime you go to buy coffee………………………buy something else instead.

*The 2 year thing has not been conclusively tested. My diffusion principle is also not true, please don’t look it up

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