You won’t believe what happens next!

James Lang, Editor

There’s an epidemic. A viral epidemic; and it’s been slowly growing itself for the past 15 years, no one has seemed to notice. That contagion is clickbait. Clickbait is the act of purposely misleading the consumer into watching, clicking, or buying something by means of practically lying to get them to get their attention.

Many news outlets make catchy titles that mislead, lie, and even in some cases they have nothing to do with the content of the story at all. There are those copy-paste titles like ‘We did/we tried… you won’t believe what happens next!’ and ‘10 Totally True Facts about… that will Blow your Mind!’ and my personal favorite ‘Here’s everything you need to know about…!’ I’m sure you’ve seen these all before, but these are just the generic news clickbaits, and they’re pretty easy to weed out of the crowd. Worse is when more ‘reputable’ sources start making specific baits about very real things to pull people in. There are often real stories behind the headlines. And of course, the goal is to pull in potential readers, but the problem is when the title either isn’t factual, is extremely conditional, or is substantially one sided. When quick readers are scrolling past their feeds, they’ll take these clickbaits as facts. Most notably this happens in news relating to politics. Part of the problem is when catchy and misleading headlines are combined with lazy or quick readers; some people even formulate opinions based on headlines they see as alerts on their phone. This type of clickbait is obnoxious, misleading, and very dishonest. It manipulates people into reading articles that don’t relate to the title, or even worse people take these baits as facts.

However, this isn’t the most hurtful type of clickbait, nor is it the worst outcome of it. I’m sure a lot of you have been on Youtube recently, and you’ll find out the hilariously high number misleading titles, thumbnails, and hollow promises, as of recent. There are ones that are just like news clickbait, where someone puts or edits an image in their thumbnail to solely draw in viewers for ad revenue, but there is something much worse about clickbaits. I’m a fan of games, but don’t personally enjoy the current trends. I can’t go on YouTube without a single click leading me to a ‘FORTNITE FREE V BUCKS GIVEAWAY’ ‘Watch (random Fortnite dude) Beat… (another random Fortnite dude)’. I see these suggested videos on my sidebar of YouTubers promising free stuff to draw in young viewers. I see thousands upon thousands of red arrows pointing to things that aren’t real and aren’t even in the video. I see declarative statements ‘New (something) in (a game or whatever)’ in the thumbnail and see the same statement with a question mark in the description. These are passed off as theories, ideas, or suggestions when you actually click on the video. I mean, I understand it’s fine for someone else to like what I don’t, but this type of irritating clickbait is very obnoxious. But that’s the problem… it’s not just obnoxious, it’s so much worse. Often on these types of clickbait videos comes with some sort of giveaway. At first, I thought these were just scams for no other reason than to pull in viewers, but in reality, it’s much more sinister. The most common referral link you’ll see is to a program that links you to an app that gives you points if you download and rate other apps, with enough points, you get whatever- itunes card, vBucks, diamonds in some mobile game, etc. What you don’t realize is that these companies who set up these referral apps are just making children make fake 5-star reviews and gaining massive, and unfair, recognition for their app/product. Before this scam referral system, people were paid poorly for a 9 hour work day in countries like China and Russia, to make the fake reviews-now these companies get these types of fake free 5-star reviews at no practically no expense to them.

Clickbaiting lies, deceives, and misleads people on almost every corner of the internet. It’s the modern retelling of The Boy who Cried Wolf, except this time, the wolf never comes, he just keeps lying over and over and over until these lies aren’t even questioned any more. I don’t enjoy seeing fake giveaways and fake news when I watch Youtube, and I don’t enjoy other people thinking they’ve learned something just by reading the title to an article. Get informed, inform others, and don’t listen to the cries of the internet, because eventually the real wolf will come, and at that point no one will even notice.