Anyone who has ever attempted to do anything, ever, will be familiar with the time vortex that is Buzzfeed. One minute you’re sitting down to write an essay and the next you’re watching an overweight teenager burst a spot the size of a basketball.
It started innocently enough, you were just checking over Facebook, and then you found yourself faced with an image of a shame-faced girl accompanied with the headline “You will never guess what she did next.” No, I probably won’t be able to guess what she did next! Therefore, I shall click on it!
Clickbait in itself is not a bad thing. The fact is a lot of the time we just don’t want to do anything, and if it wasn’t for websites like Buzzfeed then we would just find other ways to do nothing.
The problem is that the lines between procrastination fun and real life news is now becoming increasingly blurred. An Irish comedy duo have recently released video satirically mocking the click bait way of life. In the video, titled “THIS VIDEO WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE” they point out that respected news mediums, such as CNN, are now also using click bait to attract readers. The example they use is was a link published by the network with the tagline “14-year-old girl stabbed her little sister 40 times, police say. The reason why will shock you”. As if the fact a 14 year old would stab anyone wasn’t shocking enough already.
Of course, media outlets sensationalising news is nothing new. However, with news becoming an increasingly online platform, news outlets are having to compete with more competitors than ever before. In the fast paced world of the web, readers are less likely to commit to reading a whole story and therefore respected news outlets are having to resort to click bait if they want to stand a chance at all.
However, the big issue with this is that news becomes disposable. Many of the issues that affect us most are both complex and long running, they require far more engagement than the current online news scene allows. Of course Facebook and social media are not the first port of call for anyone wanting to catch up on the latest news, but we cannot deny that social media and news channels are becoming increasingly interlinked – many suppliers share their most popular articles on Facebook.
The click bait culture, however, means that it is the most shocking and exciting articles that ‘trend’ and get pushed to the forefront. Whilst in some respects it is great that social media provides a platform for obscure stories to get attention, in other respects what news reaches our ears shouldn’t be based on popularity. We may want to watch a monkey do the hokey-kokey but perhaps, sadly, it would be more useful to know what the proposed budget cuts are.