I Don’t Fish but I Can Recognize Bait
Here’s What Happened When LA Writer Wore MAGA Hat into Ultra-Liberal Vegan Restaurant!”
So screams an online link.
Curious, I read through 11 paragraphs of set-up along with ads selling snake oil, cryptocurrency, and hair restorers before I found out the answer was “Nothing happened.”
I am so tired of clickbait.
One of my heroes, Pete Buttigieg, once answered a reporter’s question by saying “I’m no fisherman, but I know bait when I see it.”
I usually do too. But human curiosity often bests me and I wind up as the village idiot.
Clickbait invites me to troll and scroll from an enticing ad or question only to wind up down the ugly rabbit hole for gullible morons.
I was online yesterday when I saw a photo of a golden retriever on her back, four paws in the air, with the question: “Does your dog do this dangerous thing?”
OMG yes! Dangerous? Windsor does that all the time!
I clicked the link only to find an ad for a greasy liquid, recommended by doctors to improve traffic in my alimentary canal. My gut is not Route One. Traffic is fine in there. And while I never found the golden retriever, I missed lunch, and sheepishly admitted I’d been had.
Clickbait. Made ya look.
Likewise, there’s the post showing tin foil on an interior doorknob. “Do this if you are home alone!” the link warns. Okay, it raised my curiosity. This time I got paragraph upon paragraph about cures for crepey skin and a miracle moisturizer. No tin-foiled doorknob anywhere.
Made ya look.
Then come links appealing to my innate curiosity. We see a beautiful photo of a once-famous movie star. “See what she looks like now!” reads the caption. Okay, I admit it, I wanna see.
Next comes a gaggle of photos of very minor movie star has-beens, many faces completely unfamiliar to me, and I NEVER see the actress whose current head shot was promised. I’d have a better chance of seeing her at the Actor’s Fund old age home in New Jersey. All the while, by the way, adjacent ads are still pushing that miracle cure for floppy skin.
Then there’s the “Kelly Ripa explains her departure from Live!” I don’t even watch Kelly Ripa, but I fell for that one months ago. I read 12 paragraphs about her show history with adjacent ads for miracle cures and, it turned out that Ripa’s only departure was by Uber.
Today it was “Add this to your toothpaste to help regrow gums.” Now this scared me. I’m long in the tooth age-wise, but my gums are still pretty good. I don’t want to grow gums like the old grey mare. I did not click.
And meanwhile you and I aren’t the only ones fed up with clickbait. There’s a whole social media organization on Facebook called Stop Clickbait, trying to end this heinous practice. They publicize answers to the dumbest clickbait, saving scrollers hours of time by giving one- or two-word answers to the most absurd headlines.
“What happens when cars run over banana peels like in Mario Kart?
Stop Clickbait: Nothing.
“Disney Princesses are supposed to be perfect but here’s what one fan found!”
Stop Clickbait: They have no fingernails.
I rather like that one. I might have fallen for it. And according to Stop Clickbait they saved me 21 different clicks.
Another favorite of mine is “He Thought it was Big Foot’s Skull but Experts Told Him THIS!”
Stop Clickbait: It’s a gnarly rock.
This morning, it was fun noting that the most outrageous clickbait-sounding headlines were actually true.
“Dramatic moments from deprogrammed right wingers indict whole GOP” and “Unhinged: The White House Meeting that Preceded ‘will be wild’ Tweet.”
Truth is indeed stranger than clickbait. Way to go, January 6 Committee.
Well, I’m all done with clickbait. I now know it when I see it and I can waste my time doing something else dumb over my morning coffee.
Stay tuned for the next issue of Letters for adventures in aging gracefully on “How to Achieve Results Using This One Weird Trick!”
But if anyone slogs through the come-ons and actually finds a cure for crepey skin on upper arms, please let me know.
Fay Jacobs is the author of five published books and is touring with her one-woman sit-down comedy show, Aging Gracelessly.