Thank you for clicking on this article. You probably saw the click-worthy headline and thought to yourself, “Hey, I’d like to look at these words.” Congratulations, you’ve passed the test and can use the internet properly. You felt the need to consume information and be entertained. If you could kindly please put this link on your Facebook timeline with the caption “OMG so true!” that’d be just the coolest.
Now, onto those of you who just refused to use the 0.0001 calories it takes to click your mouse and the approximate 30 seconds to a minute to read, or at least browse, this piece of content. You’re also probably the same person who shared the Harry Potter 8 story from the website that did in fact source Yahoo! and NBC, but didn’t link to the stories. Also, you didn’t do your due diligence and look for a second source to confirm the story; you just trusted the information you saw on the internet, like your 80-year-old grandma did when she lost her life savings to a Nigerian millionaire prince, except it is likes and shares you seek, not fame and fortune. At least your gam-gam had her head in the right place.
I like to call it “share bait.” You probably know what I’m talking about. Samsung paying Apple $1 billion dollars with truckloads of nickels, JK Rowling writing a new Harry Potter book, anything about vaccine shots from so-called health blogs that have “.wordpress” in their URLs, Snapchat’s over-the-top “bro” email to Mark Zuckerberg, US military veterans drinking a TGI Friday’s into bankruptcy, I’ve seen them all. They’re all fake, too. All of them. In fact, I’d go as far to say that at least a quarter of the “news stories” you see shared on your Facebook and Twitter feeds are all fake.
Did Samsung have to pay Apple a billion cool ones? No, because that case is in retrial. Did JK Rowling write an eighth book? Yes, she did, but it had absolutely nothing to do with Harry Potter and the eighth Harry Potter book rumor was started as an April Fool’s gag seven months ago. Did the Snapchat bros really send Zuckerberg a douchey email? Maybe, but I guarantee that anyone attached on that email didn’t want to leak a conversation that might end up costing both parties billions of dollars.
So what does this say about us? We have been labeled the “Internet Generation” ever since we first set foot in computer labs in the mid-90s and found out that the White House’s official website was not WhiteHouse.com. We’re the generation that has been raised on the internet, all the way from chat rooms and Geocities to news feeds and Skype. Why do we fall for share bait so easily?
I fully understand that clickable titles pay my salary and drive traffic to this ever-growing website and that at times, yes, we are guilty of sending out share bait. We also pride ourselves on creativity and originality here. A “X Reasons Being 20 Iz Super Lames” list-formatted column usually gets good traffic because it lets the potential reader know that it is incredibly easy to read, but it is also original content on par with everything else that we publish – hopefully. It isn’t some bullshit news story that we cooked up and refused to source just to send clicks to our site. There’s a difference. I could easily just walk into work each day, cook up some ridiculous story about Jennifer Lawrence saying that there will be seven more Hunger Games movies after the fourth one and just watch the clicks roll in.
So why do people love sharing these stories so much? Why are they so quick to share something from an untrustworthy, unestablished “news” source? Trust for the mainstream media is at an all-time low, and for damn good reason. People are turning to unestablished, non-mainstream news sources for their information. In fact, I wouldn’t even call this information. Infotainment is a better word for it.
In the end, the internet is still a widely unregulated thing, and it will hopefully always be that way, no matter how hard the government tries (inserts threatening Anonymous video). It’s the Wild West and we’re all still trying to figure out how the hell it works and who we can and can’t trust.
To be fair, the argument can be made that everyone just sucks at the internet. YouTube trolls, teens who create Facebook hate groups because they have too much time on their hands, female Instagram douches, anyone who listens to the Alex Jones Show, people who are dumb enough to get catfished, Buzzfeed, anyone who tweets “RT for respect” or “#blessed.” I think the conclusion here is that we all just suck at the internet. We suck at it, hard. We just suck at it in different ways.
But maybe one day, we will be able to live in a world where that Nigerian billionaire prince will pay you back that money at a 200% interest rate, that really is a Maxim model that you have been Facebook messaging with for the last 18 months and all of the Craigslist murderers are locked away in prison.
One day, maybe. There’s always hope, internet. Until then, just remember to double check your sources and don’t believe everything you see on the internet, unless it’s posted on this website. Although, those are rules you should already follow.