If the internet could be described as a sea of information, then this sea would also be full of fish and naturally fishermen catching fish.
A very important component of fishing is the bait. No matter what bait is used, it is meant for one only thing: fool the fish to bite the hook.
Fish are driven by instinctive behavior towards the bait. Unfortunately, man who has the powers of his intellect and will over his instincts, can act very much like fish or worse. This is the case of clickbait.
Wikipedia defines clickbait as: “a pejorative term describing web content that is aimed at generating online advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines or eye-catching thumbnail pictures to attract click-throughs and to encourage forwarding of the material over online social networks.”
But the problem doesn’t only lie in those placing the baits. As one observant blogger would say: “We [the viewers] too are really much part of the problem.”
If clickbait is rampant over the internet, it is because there are plenty of fish who are only too willing to be fooled by clickbait!
Clickbait works by abusing what is known as the person’s “curiosity gap.” The bait reveals just enough information (i.e., short catchy titles, desirable instantaneous results, sexy images, violent pictures, etc.) to arouse this curiosity but only so much to create a gap that cannot be filled unless one finally decides to click on the link.
The obvious result is disappointment!
But clickbait has done its job earning clicks.
And here, most articles and criticisms about clickbait end.
From the moral point of view, however, the life cycle of clickbaiting is just beginning.
Every bait triggers curiosities of varying forms and intensities in each viewer. Some forms are good and others bad.
Clickbait doesn’t actually close the gap of one’s curiosity. It leaves it gaping wider and hungrier. Moreover, it mixes curiosity with a suspended disillusionment. This wider gap internally stimulates our memory, imagination and passions into a frenzy of random clicks on more baits.
“If only I hadn’t clicked!” This is now a common sad expression for surfers.
What exactly happened here?
1. We assume that they were just chilling around and surfing for wholesome entertainment.
2. Their curiosity spied an interesting clickbait.
3. The bait triggered a reaction (which differs from person to person) for example, lustful, repugnance or even playful titles on bloopers or funny fails, etc.
4. The CLICK!
5. One is disappointed after viewing the link’s true content. Although the content may not have been immoral, one’s suspended curiosity now seeks a vengeance. It switches the mind to focus on the reaction that was triggered by the bait.
6. In the case, for example, of a lustful reaction that was foiled by a clickbait, one simply disregards all baits and willfully searches for what will immediately and directly satisfy (no longer his curiosity) but his lust; thus, pornography.
In such a case, the moral dilemma for many is whether “should I click or not?”
This understanding of the personal moral drama is at its most primitive level: to do good and avoid evil.
Sadly, many are misled to think that this is all there is to living a moral life: as long as we don’t do anything big-time bad, then we’re big-time good!
The true moral dilemma, and ultimately one’s domination over clickbait and other similar situations cannot to be found in the approach of “clicking or not clicking”!
Those who wish to constantly develop their character and find a deeper meaning in life and virtue must begin the moral drama at step ZERO, not ONE!
Step ZERO contains many broader and richer considerations, for example: “Am I supposed to be using the internet at this time of day? Do I have pending duties to attend to before I indulge in this or that personal plan?”
Thus, moral discernment and growth is not stunted to only “doing good and avoiding evil.” It embraces a sense of purpose and mission in the person who is imbued with ideals such as being useful to others, conscious about the good use of his time and resources, concerned about others’ needs, etc.
This is the authentic moral plane one must shift himself into if he truly wants to forge a personality that is not easily preyed upon by clickbait and other false worldly lures. It is a personality that grows and bears fruit from the constant and loving discernment of: “What does God expect today, here and now of me? What more can I do to love God and others today, here and now?”