Revealed: the shocking secrets successful people use to avoid clickbait

Octobre 12th, 2018


It’s a bit like seeing the big red button with the sign saying “Do Not Press This Button” – you know you shouldn’t but you still want to. Even if you recognise a headline as clickbait, sometimes you can’t stop yourself from clicking anyway.

Clickbait has lots of tricks. It tends to play on our fears and insecurities about our looks. Often clickbaity titles draw us into a worldview that we know is not “nice” – we want to take pleasure in someone else’s misfortune (“Look at how fat/ugly/miserable/dead these formerly glamorous people are now”). This may give us a momentary ego boost – I was never famous but at least I didn’t end up looking that bad. However, it is not ultimately satisfying, as it actually makes us more anxious and insecure in the long term. If you judge everybody else, you end up judging yourself too. So, to avoid these traps when you feel the urge to “have a peep” and get that little thrill, remind yourself that you are being tempted to be nasty towards others, not kind. If you think it is rude to stare and giggle at strangers getting changed at a public swimming pool, then you’ll probably feel bad about looking at pictures body-shaming celebrities. Recognising the “meanness” in the headline before you click, helps you turn away and move on.

Clickbaity headlines try to make us anxious that we are about to miss out on something. Expressions like “The secret all millionaires/entrepreneurs/celebrities etc. don’t want you to know…”. We all like the thrill of having some knowledge other don’t have, but is it really likely that any valuable secret will be revealed in the article? If it is all over the Internet, it is not exactly secret. So, by looking out for promises of secrets, it is easier to think critically about the source and remember how disappointing it is when the “secret” turns out to be something totally obvious. “Revealed: the secret to becoming rich is to save lots of money and make lots of good investments!”

Are you being prompted to feel shocked or outraged? It is quite fun to be shocked – there’s a thrill to disgust and anger, and again these articles try to boost our egos by encouraging us to feel righteous indignation. This gives us a sense of superiority over others. We are not presented with the complexities of a story – the different viewpoints and perspectives that help us empathise with everyone involved. Instead we are called to pass swift judgement without thinking. After reading the article, the thrill often dissipates – perhaps we actually feel rather sorry for the people we are being asked to pass judgement on, and we feel bad for having been drawn into a toxic worldview. By being wary of headlines that are over-emotional, it is easier to step back and remember we’d be better off finding out about the situation from a reputable source and drawing our own conclusions.

Finally, well written articles usually give you a summary or overview at the start so you can decide whether or not to keep reading. If you find you are reading more and more but still not feeling satisfied or learning anything, and you feel like you’re chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, stop! Close your browser, click on something completely different, put down the phone, walk away from the screen – get yourself out of the clickbait trap while you still can!

Fran Alexander