Clickbait Can’t Be Stopped Because of this Brain Function
Why Clickbait Works:
Clickbait relies on different aspects of anxiety like curiosity and affirmation, no matter the type of clickbait.
The curiosity gap is caused by introducing the word ‘maybe’ into the equation, making the brain itch for knowledge. “Who? What? Where? Why?” are all curiosity-inducing questions. As for lists, numbers are bite sized pieces of info, building positive reinforcement in the brain when you click on it. Our minds are satisfied by the organization that the numbers provide.
Why This Matters
Clickbait isn’t used only by Buzzfeed and The Onion. News sites like CNN and Fox news also “...likely to optimize certain click-friendly headlines in a way which are tailored to their specific audience group”(Chan, Wing). Journalists are seeing what works, and adapting to reach a wider audience, especially if their company is biased. While The Wall Street Journal sticks with traditional headlines (Harvey to Hit Flooded Houston Again), CNN has started the incorporate more click-baity headlines (More Rain is Coming. Lots More). If you think clickbait is beneath you, think again. Your brain doesn’t think that.
Analyze these titles:
1. The Best Movies of 2016
“What are the best movies of 2016? Did I see one of the best movies? Is it on Netflix yet?”
You might google “2016 movies” if you’re bored during the weekend and are looking for something to watch. And because you only want the best, you click on this article.
2. The Interesting Details On “Game Of Thrones” You May Have Missed
“What are the details? How do they relate to the plot? I’m a huge fan-how could I have missed them?!?!”
GoT is a very popular and intense show, so articles like these are mainly for the fans rather than the general public. It’s a way to interact with the show without really thinking about it.
3. I Made 5 Famous Scrambled Egg Recipes And Found The Very Best One
“What’s the best one, Barbra?”
I’m always looking for new recipes to try. I might google “best egg recipes” and find this.
4. NAFTA’s ‘Broken Promises’: These Farmers Say They Got The Raw End Of Trade Deal
Even NPR knows the value of clickbait.
Which farmers? What the deal? What do the farmers mean by raw end?
See? Your brain is being tricked into reading about NAFTA.
5. Could A Bus With Sleep Pods Replace Airplanes?
“Can it? I wish. How can I fund this?
6. This School District Asked Real Estate Agents To Help Rekindle Its Reputation
What school district? How was it rekindled? What’s so special about these real estate agents?
7. How This U.S. Tech Giant Is Backing China’s Tech Ambitions
Which tech giant? What are China’s tech goals? How are they helping them?
8. A man asked bar staff to spy on his girlfriend. They responded beautifully
Why did the man ask the staff to spy on his girlfriend? How did they respond?
I don’t know what you would type into Google to get this headline, but it exists.
It’s nice to know that you and the Queen have equal stress levels.
10. Does Your Myers-Briggs Type Align With Your Harry Potter House?
The most important clickbait of all -this headline is for you if you’re a Potterhead (see what I did there?).
“What’s my type? What’s my house? What if they don’t match the scores I got two years ago?”
Whether you knew it or not, these thoughts passed through your head as your read these headlines.
Here’s some bonus clickbait for you: If You Can Answer Even Half Of These Questions, You’ve Found The Love Of Your Life
Why did you click? Comment below!
Chan, Wing H.It’s Not Me, It’s You: How the Media had Changed to Adapt to their Facebook Audience. Drexel University. May 2017. Aug 26th, 2017