Sunday, 29 January 2017

10 Crazy Things About The Headmaster You Just Won't Believe . . .

by Caleb Barron

A Short Rant on Clickbait: Humanity’s Demise


Congratulations! You’ve just clicked on an article that will be an overwhelming disappointment given the excitement and scandal promised in the title. 

Sadly, I cannot offer any revelations about the Headmaster, but I can exemplify and condemn the click-bait culture consuming our social media and online journalism. There are many definitions of a click-bait or click-baiting but basically it is a vapid, substance-less article given a title unrepresentative of what follows generally used to create more online traffic and therefore greater ad revenue for a given website (luckily, this blog is not for profit). 

It’s an unsurprising model given the increased competition for attention in our current crazy lives and the profit-led, bitty journalism that makes up the news we often consume. Many might see them as manageable news pieces to gain insight in little time but often the implied scandalous nature of them and the computer-crashing amount of adverts that pop up would suggest otherwise. In fact, given the time it takes me to close each advert and click through each new page to actually access the content (assuming there is any, which there often isn’t), I’d be better off reading some actual long-form journalism or catching the headlines from BBC.

In case you are still confused as to clickbait titles, articles to avoid when looking for real information, I have provided some classic examples below:
·     
      Ten crazy things about [insert relatable topic] you just won’t believe... Number 7 blew my mind.
·                                                                                                                                                                     14 super sad stories that either should be given a dignified article or are just made up 
as we only had like 4... I cried at number 9.

·     32 funniest posts on [tumblr/reddit/twitter/other social media platform] ever! 
Number 27 had me like :’)
·         
17 reasons why you shouldn’t [insert thing everyone does]. Number 15 will make you hate yourself...
·         8 reasons why you should try [insert thing no one does].
·         
This guy from [insert place you live] earns £4,200 per week working from home with this clever trick...

Woman baffles scientists by [either losing a lot of weight or de-aging at least 20 years] 
with this one simple trick.

All these things give you cancer...

Who’s [insert celebrity]’s new [man/woman]?

And this is just scratching the surface. On average Buzzfeed (a common offender) posts an article every 7 minutes and having just opened up their homepage all of their first 10 articles are scarily close to the above titles.

Now I’m no saint. I often find myself wasting a solid hour finding out which piece of food on the table in the Great Hall in Harry Potter I’d appear as and reading up on the latest exploits of the Kardashians or finding out the 16 reasons why I need a puppy and discovering the secret reason why Brendan Frasier hasn’t appeared in any films in the last 5 years. I do it because it’s immersive and separate. It’s so far removed from my real life with exams and coursework and homework and looming university options and relationships and finance etc that I can forget that any of it matters and instead be comforted by the 14 definitive cute baby photos and 200 words on why pugs really are the cutest dogs. And when I think about what I’m reading I hate it; a good novel, well-made film, beautiful album, clever video game or vulnerable conversation can be more immersive, more interesting and more beneficial to my life. But none of these things are accessible to me right now in the same way all social media is.

Click-baiting is simply the the world’s response to a need for instantly accessible content on everything at all times, regardless of quality and value. We seek entertainment, we seek escapism, we seek fantasy but we all still want realism and don’t have the cash or time to watch ‘La La Land’or to commit to Orwell’s ‘1984’. Therefore imminently changing information with no real consequence that’s free and just a click away is appealing. It may be replacing long-form journalism that is written with research and passion but it’s easier to consume, generally deals with safer topics and promises so much.

The thing that really grinds my gears though is the blatantly stolen content used to generate ad revenue and place a website on the map, so to speak. These writers are screen-shotting a mildly amusing post or searching cute dogs on Google or summarising an actual news report and posting them over 30 webpages, calling it news and earning themselves far more than those who are actually producing the content. It’s disappointing to see the industry I hope to go into being driven by a need to produce quantity that is content-less rather than quality writing and, far worse, cover this complete lack of energy and enthusiasm by slapping fake titles written to make us drool over the possibilities of what our clicks may lead us to.

But the more pressing issue is our Blog. We’ve been infiltrated by this very method of journalism. Last week, Floss Willcocks, a regular contributor to the blog, wrote an article entitled ‘Will Your Bra Give You Cancer?’ (http://portsmouthpoint.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/will-your-bra-give-you-cancer.html) and I was hooked the moment I read those words. It exhibited all the terrible traits of a clickbait article: it had a list, it was warning me of my impending doom, it mentioned bras, and it urged me to find out more. This is the beginning of the end, before long we’ll have articles detailing the 13 reasons the Sixth Form Centre is better than its predecessor, the 7 most surprising objects found in lost property and the 9 craziest school policies you just won’t believe.


In all seriousness, though, the Blog gives me hope for the future of journalism. The incredible research, passion and energy that goes into all the content on the blog is incredible. People write with purpose, character and genuine interest, something a lot of mainstream media has forgotten about. And though we must accept that our world is over-ridden with substance-less, vapid news, we can take comfort in the next novel we read or the next indie film we watch or the next hour-long conversation about life, the universe and everything in it we have, knowing that we have overcome the "post-truth", "alternative facts" that surround us. We have sought culture and beauty and interaction and relationships and life. We have sought it and we have found it and may we continue to enjoy it whilst the whole world falls apart around us.

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