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6 Reasons Why You Should Never Click on Clickbait

Number 5 will leave you speechless.

See what I’m doing? A clickbait about clickbaits. But this is, in fact, a serious piece about the many psychological dangers of doing exactly what you did to get here.

  1. Clickbaits work on the general principle of any behavioral addiction. Some recent research found that giving variable rewards to the same action is an essential ingredient of all behavioral addiction. Think of gambling: At the slot-machine, you do the exact same thing for hours, but as the rewards are variable—you occasionally win, but most of the time you don’t—you keep doing it. Social media platforms are designed to follow the same principle: you check your Twitter feed, sometimes you find many likes and retweets, sometimes nothing at all. This makes you check it obsessively. And clickbaits work the same way. It’s the roulette of the internet.
  2. The whole metaphor of clickbaits is seriously misleading. It suggests a happy fish frolicking around in the nice lukewarm Caribbean Sea, when it happens to encounter a bait and bites. In fact, when we are clicking around the internet, we are most often actively looking for some form of distraction. So that’s pretty much the opposite of a happy fish frolicking around.
  3. Clickbaits almost always disappoint. They are not worth it. In fact, very often we click on them because we want to prove that annoying ‘number 5 will leave you speechless’ or ‘number 5 will amaze you’ line wrong. Nothing can leave me speechless. Try me! And frankly, what was the last time any clickbait left you speechless? Mild surprise is the best we can hope for.
  4. Clickbaits are destroying journalism. Even the most prestigious and elite news outlets use it now. And even the most boring news items now have clickbaity titles. A particularly annoying one is the kind of news link that says something like: “Congress has just passed a law that…” It makes you think it has just happened in the last minute, urging you to rush there, to experience history as it is made. But of course, chances are that the link is from a couple of days ago and you’ll end up disappointed again.
  5. Clickbaits are bad for your eyes. Don’t tell me that this didn’t leave you speechless.
  6. Finally, when you click on a clickbait, this is a good indication that you have some kind of unmet emotional need that you should probably address head-on and offline. Maybe your job’s a joke, you’re broke or your love life’s D.O.A. We click because we want to be distracted from something else that is going on in our life. And while you can avoid thinking about it for now by checking out yet another clickbait, you can’t when, for example, you’re lying in bed waiting to fall asleep. If you catch yourself tempted by a clickbait, switch off your electronic device and ask yourself why you do so.