In the good old early days of the Internet, ‘listicles’, or articles about lists of the top ten of this, the top 20 of that, didn’t need to add the tempting phrase ‘you won’t believe number 4’, because we were just so delighted to have all this information available without having to go to a library, or read a magazine, so we diligently digested the list and chatted with friends to swap details of our amazement.
Such headlines led to millions of views, before someone in an office in L.A. (or London/New York/San Francisco/Singapore) had a light-bulb moment...and thought to up it a notch: “Hmmm, lists where I can inject pop-up adverts…I know how I can monetise this!”
I can’t pretend to even begin to understand how all this works, but I do know that all those tempting videos on social media channels definitely follow a pattern: Someone good looking does something interesting/stupid/funny/dangerous to draw your attention – you click …. and a 5-minute video opens, which spends so much time setting up the initial premise, that you regret clicking it in the first place – but then, if you close it, you’ll miss the pay-off…so you watch until the end and realise that’s five minutes of your life that you will never get back.
Let’s face it, life is far too short for videos that promise unique and creative content — only to leave you feeling provoked and aggravated.
As Instagram descends to the level of Facebook style ‘click here to see more” via its Reels feature, it becomes more apparent that the main intention of the ‘Metaverse’ (Facebook/WhatsApp/Instagram et al) is not to amuse, amaze, or even shock me – it’s to gather my data. What I watch, how long I watch for, where I am when I watch. Algorithms examine the content I view and apply complex analytics to calculate the elements that I engage with, the music, the visuals, the must-have handbags, the styles and fashions, the happy babies or cute puppies, the influencers – for all I know it may even use my phone’s camera to work out my eye movements!
And I could swear it happened on a few occasions where I have thought something or privately discussed an item with a friend before turning to my phone only to find those exact products flashing before my eyes in targeted ads. How spooky, and it wasn’t even Halloween! And it does all this so it can sell this data to marketing companies. In other words, an advertiser’s dream network of AI-driven spy-ware, to which we users actively subscribe simply by allowing the software to scrape data with our blessing because we can’t be bothered to read the end user agreement.
The concept of ‘you won’t believe number 4’ comes from our inherent love of gossip. Whether you admit to indulging in idle chit-chat or not, the promises of untold narratives on any given subject are sorely tempting – and lead you down the rabbit-hole of Internet links that take you in ever-increasing circles of mindless nonsense.
If you’ve ever wondered why so many people are uploading these types of video, remember this: thousands, if not millions of people, are falling into the same clickbait trap every minute of every day. And by luring us to click, the website hosting the link earns revenue from advertisers which is passed on to the content creators. What’s worse is that the experience for both the viewer and the creator is often demeaning as the content is not only of questionable quality and accuracy but an awful lot of them seem staged or faked.
They vary from how to create an artsy cake using sprinkles and an iron, a so-called artist who seemingly uses a unique technique to create a masterpiece, to a woman who saves herself from choking by carrying out the Heimlich manoeuvre on herself. The main feature of these videos is that they are prolonged and deliberately make you wait to see the end result, which is never as satisfying as the build-up that led you to believe.
But all is not lost! There are some things you can do to at least minimise the fall-out from an overload of sensationalism.
It’s a New Year, so make a resolution (then make a resolution to keep your resolution).
For example, my first New Year’s resolution is to delete some of the more intrusive apps from my phone and resist the temptation to click on click-bait.
My second is to help spread the word that clickbait videos are easily one of the most infuriating online trends of modern times. Like this article.
My third is to develop a healthier lifestyle.
And my fourth is to only come up with one New Year Resolution. (I said you wouldn’t believe it…)
The singer topped Billboard's 'Top Ticket Sales' chart this year after performing for over 3 million fans in attendance during his concerts in Europe
The second season is currently in production
At the COP27, he cheered the announcement of 30 upgraded national climate plans along with the summit’s headline agreement on 'loss and damage'
The sequel to groundbreaking extraterrestrial epic 'Avatar' has been 13 years in the making
A report was filed after a man said that she took Dh6,000 from him to introduce him to a housemaid and then disappeared
The new album is set for release on March 10, 2023