I’m happy to report that the tidal wave of clickbait headlines — infuriating, manipulative teaser headlines whose writers will do anything to make you click — seems to have peaked.
For one thing, Facebook has tried to block clickbait headlines in its news feed and has had some success. For another thing, clickbait headlines seem to be moving, at last, into the public consciousness. We’re on to them. We understand them. We’re tired of them.
But that doesn’t mean that clickbait is going away. The growth of the tidal wave may be slowing, but we’re still getting drenched.
The editors who crank out these headlines are blatantly tacky and deceptive, so I take tremendous pleasure in yanking the carpet out from under their feet. Here, then, is my seventh installment of Pogue’s Clickbait Spoilers. If a headline says, “You won’t believe what happens next,” I’m going to darned well tell you, ruining the mystery.
Clickbait: It Took Him Only Four Minutes to Bring an Entire Middle School to Tears
Spoiler: This video shows a talk by former professional wrestler Marc Mero. He tells the school kids about how he used to get high and drunk but felt terrible when his mother died.
Yes, some kids are shown crying in the 4.5-minute video, but guess what? It Took Him More Than Four Minutes, Because This Video Is Only an Excerpt of His Full-Length Talk.
Clickbait: If You Drink Warm Lemon Water Every Morning for a Year, Here’s What Will Happen
Spoiler: Nothing happens.
The article doesn’t even answer the question. It says nothing about drinking lemon water for a year. In fact, if you click on this headline, you discover a different headline. They’re using one headline as clickbait and another, less breathless one for the story itself!
That story is: “20 Reasons You Should Drink Lemon Water in the Morning.” It’s a bunch of stuff like: Lemon water is hydrating, helps digestion, fights infections, helps you lose weight, benefits your skin, blood, joints, liver, bowels, blood pressure, fetus, teeth, etc.
Sure it does.
Spoiler: An elderly man with cerebral palsy creates amazingly good art using only the symbol keys on a typewriter (it’s a video). That’s it. Are you blown away?
Spoiler: “Switcher.” Because it means more people buying iPhones.
Clickbait: George Clooney Had the Perfect Response at Comic Con When a Fellow Actor Called Him Old
Spoiler: Beats me.
It’s video clip of a Comic Con panel, where George Clooney makes a “surprise” appearance to promote his movie Tomorrowland.
Hugh Laurie: “He’s 75 if he’s a day.”
Clooney: “It’s not lost on me that I’m spending my honeymoon at Comic Con.”
(It’s funny, but how is that a perfect response to the “old” remark?)
Spoiler: EnChroma glasses, designed to help colorblind people.
In fact, only one person tears up in this video: the colorblind guy.
I’m hugely disdainful of the text that accompanies the video, which implies that the guy can’t see the color blue (that’s not what happens with colorblindness) and that he can’t tell if a traffic light is red or yellow (um, how about noting its place?).
Clickbait: What Joe Biden Explains in 1 Minute Will Change Your Life Forever. Seriously.
Spoiler: Here’s another Facebook headline that leads to a different headline on the article: “Joe Biden’s 2012 Advice to Grieving Families Is All the More Poignant Now.”
Biden’s advice is this: When you lose a loved one (Biden lost his wife and son) and can’t imagine how you’ll go on, begin writing down your grief levels on each square of a calendar. “You’ll find that your down days get further and further apart. That’s when you know that you’re gonna make it.”
Spoiler: Apple Pay, apparently.
This one’s actually a clickbait ad. I see it all the time on Facebook and on the Yahoo front page.
Ordinarily, I would never click on such a stupid, clickbaity ad. I’m a tech columnist, for goodness’ sake — if Apple had a post-iPhone sensation, I’d have heard of it.
But for the sake of spoiling this clickbait, and to save you time, I went for it. I clicked.
What you get is an endless video — typed words on a screen, read aloud by a male voice — that, after 30 excruciating minutes of talking about how great Apple is and how great the Motley Fool is, turns out to be a pitch for a free annual report (regularly $99!) that’s plugging shares in an unnamed “patent-rich supply lab.”
I want my 30 minutes back.