Social media is a vessel of communication that is often both a blessing and a curse. It’s all in the motion of the virtual ocean and if a positive connection with our fellow humans is the vibrant sea life that thrives and spawns, then creatures like hot takes and clickbait are the Coney Island Whitefish washing upon the shore. At the very least, they’re a hamburger wrapper mucking up something inherently magical. We’ve all seen them. There’s the smuggerton who revels in making over-the-top opinions with zero humor, actual passion, or intel to back it up. (For example, someone saying that the best Black Sabbath album is 13 or that Dane Cook is funnier than the Marx Brothers. These are hot takes.) Opinions are fine but smugging it up just to be contrary is kind of like a baked potato that’s been microwaved too long. It’s all tough with crinkly skin and a waste of a perfectly delicious carb.
But hot takes bask in the absolute shit-shadow that is the dreaded clickbait article. (Dun…dun…dun!!!) If bad clickbait was a human being, it would be in the form of the sleaziest car dealer who knows next to nothing about automobiles, but sure as hell is going to condescend to you. After all, he/she got you in the dealership and now your space is ripe for the picking, plodding, and rubbishing. And we’ve all done it. I too have been a victim of reading a title to an article that elicited a “What in the blazes is this poppycock?” and clicking on it. (Because I tend to transform into a dandified old Colonel when upset.)
No more! We’re not fools and dollars to donuts, a hot-takey clickbait title will only lead you to reading a poorly written and even worse researched article that stresses you out, pisses you off, and makes you want to hunt down the nearest sorcerer to curse the writer AND his/her ancestors. In other words, it’s not a good thing and the time is nigh for us as a tribe of smart, free-thinking individuals to stand up and say no to third-rate carny tactics and articles that were about as lovingly crafted as a gas station burrito minus the fluorescent-light-grime charm.
So what exactly can we do to fight such a scourge? Turns out, more than you might think. A click has more power than meets the eye, after all. Here are some small but mighty weapons to arm yourself against such brain-melting foolishness!
First of all, there’s the most obvious one. DON’T CLICK ON IT. I know it’s hard. We are curious creatures who are all walking Pandoras who are all but waltzing into a regretful decision. Curiosity by itself is not a bad thing at all. It’s how we learn and grow and discover truly fantastic and fantastical things. But clickbait preys on this very human and universal trait. Hey, someone is making some outrageous claim that is going to make me want to rip out my eyeballs and throw them at my neighbors’ feral kids…I’m gonna click on it!
I’ve done it. I even railed against some incredibly poor writing attached to some clickbait that involved the band Skinny Puppy. Even when I clicked it, I knew better. I knew that the likelihood of it angering me to the point of praying to the heavens for the sweet, sexy destructive powers of pyrokinesis was high and I was right. The dumbassery of the piece actually still makes me irritated just mentally revisiting it, and objectively, I shouldn’t let silliness anger me. That said, one should never tolerate bad writing and condescension. Ever. Couple that with having the inner spirit animal of the crankiest chihuahua and I still want that pyrokinesis, goddamn it!
While it can be fun to stoke the fires of inner volatility, there are better things to get teeth-gnashy about than some dopey, thick-headed, stupid-ole clickbait. Let’s hold hands and chant, DO NOT CLICK ON THE CLICKBAIT. Throw some holy water on that shit and cut its head off while stuffing an entire garlic bulb in its mouth.
Instead, click on the articles and writing that actually looks good and nourishing. Tell that half-petrified, radioactive spud of bad writing and cheap ad tactics to get lost and hit the bricks! There’s an ocean out there of good content from writers and creators who actually respect you enough to not PT Barnum your brain. Sure, it’s human nature to focus on the negative, which is why we sometimes have a hard time remembering the name of someone who was nice to us in school but will remember the full names of our bullies to our resolutely bitter end. I’m wholly guilty of this too and I also will fully acknowledge how messed up this is.
That said, to quote the great Bobbi Flekman, “Money talks and bullshit walks.” If you hate clickbait or, hell, anything cultural (IE. Hollywood blockbusters, cynical remakes, bad indie films, cream corn, etc), then ignore the living dickens out of it and give your clicks, money, love, and attention to all the content and creations that make you genuinely excited and curious. Life is so much about knowing what you’re truly worth and to never ever settle. Settling is tantamount to death.
Here’s the worst-case scenario. You did it. You clicked on the clickbait and are insta-pissed. What do you do now? The click is there, so it is what it is, but there is still hope. Become an alchemist! Take this mental waste and shape it into a usable fossil fuel or even possibly gold! Make some art, go for a jog, organize your closet, or even write your own meta-rant-warning against such poppycockery. (Ahem.) It beats the hell out of just being frustrated and unproductively cranky. Getting business done is the balm for all that ails you and the best weapon towards the tripe of the world is positive action.
At the end of the day, no matter how powerless you may feel, we all are strong and possess an inner-sovereignty that we don’t always realize. Never give up and know that you and your noggin rightfully warrant all the solid things in this life and for all that is good and holy, give all of the bad hot takes and clickbait a nice view of your backside and all sundry rude gestures before you ride off into the sunset of wit, vision, and whimsy.