It’s in small part a bit of secret1or is it? that I wanted to be a Journalism major. I was very much involved in the school paper2Onlooker, represent serving as the Editor-In-Chief of that periodical my senior year. It was a proud moment for me to make that post, until I realized what a fucking shit job running a paper is, triply so when merged with high school drama and in-fighting between staff and faculty alike. My tenure at the helm of the Onlooker was a drama-ridden mess, but gods be damned, we put out a fine product. Fine being a relative term, of course. We’re speaking of a high school newspaper. Our layout meetings were tense, angry affairs. Every decision was questioned, every dubiously written article about the latest rumors and gossip a referendum on First Amendment rights. And, let’s not dodge the obvious here, I was as much of the architect of the drama as I was its recipient.
The point is, even though my ill fated time in the shadowy world of high school journalism has long since past, I still pay attention to the ways we communicate written content. I even write a few pieces from time to time. What really has stood out to me — and a few others, I’d wager — in the field I once considered is the decline of print journalism in the face of teh Interwebs.
Listen, you don’t need me to ramble about print vs. Internet journalism. But I do think that it has given rise to something I loathe — click-bait headlines and their offshoots.
If you’ve been on Facebook at all, you’ve seen them;
A Cop Stops a Car, You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!
Cat Owners Can’t Stop Talking About This Product!
<insert politician here> DESTROYS <insert ideology here>
I realize that I’m not exactly bucking trends here by writing about click bait headlines, but in the wake of recent times when passions run as high as tension, I’m seeing more and more of these float across my feed. “Elizabeth Warren EVISCERATES Donald Drumpf”3to be fair, if this was literal, I’d click., or “He Thought He Was Getting a Speeding Ticket, but Watch What Happens”. Crap like that which feeds into the visceral need to be heard, to have your viewpoint legitimatized, to be fucking right.
It’s become a thing, a semi-legit means of demanding attention by playing to those above mentioned factors for the simple goal of just getting clicks, which is the only well-monetized means of advertising on the internet. But it does us no favors in the widening ideological gap.
I saw a friend share a video about someone someone “DESTROYS RACISM” in under a minute. Well, I said, at 5am, bleary eyed and sweeping through the night’s events whilst on the toilet, that’s terribly effective. I mean, we’ve been dealing with racism since, fuck, I don’t know, forever and it only took this guy a minute? He must be the fucking Kwisatz Haderach? No? He’s just an asshole that had a clever way of saying “Racism is bad”? I’ll pass. Not that I don’t appreciate more people speaking their minds about how race issues still permeate our collective conscious, but “DESTROYS”? You lost me at the headline.
I honestly believe this race for the almighty click simply polarizes us on social media towards the point of no return. Maybe it’s rationalization of hope, that we’re not so far gone to actively believe some of the crap that we share; but having grown up with people that have shared some of the most hateful, divisive crap I’ve read, I have to hold hope that this is not legitimate belief but rather venting of something vile on something as meaningless as Facebook. But it’s not meaningless when people read those words. I had unfriended someone I’ve known since we were little kids after reading him post for God only knows how many times that liberals are “retards” and other disparaging, dehumanizing words. As one who is, thank you very much, liberal, I took a bit of umbrage at that.
But I honestly don’t need that level of bullshit4any more, see drama, above. Browsing through his wall — I don’t think Facebook showed me a lot of his posts on my feed — I found the same sort of click bait bullshit repeated shared. “You Won’t Believe What Obama Has Planned”, “Drumpf ANNIHILATES Liberal Arguments On <whatever>”, “Muslims Want To Do THIS To America”.
How the fuck does one even begin with a conversation regarding that? What happens the next time I’m at some family/friends event or whatever, and I run into this guy?
“So, uh, I hear you hate Muslims, dude.”
“Yeah, I read you’re a gay pinko liberal.”
Well, it’s a fair cop.