They’re everywhere on my social media feeds: “This Woman Puts a Magazine in a Microwave, and I Couldn’t Believe What Happened Next” and “I Thought This Guy Was Just Making a Snowman, but When I Saw What He Was Really Doing, I Freaked” or “This Fisherman Feeds His Toyota Camry to a Great White Shark, What Happens Next is Unbelievable”.
These headlines, pioneered by the click bait site Upworthy (a ‘click bait site’ being one that is just looking for you to click on it so that they can make more advertising dollars) are akin to those 24-hour news channel, pre-commercial teaser blurbs like “Are Your School Dollars Going Toward Administrator’s Mortgage Payments?” The answer, to be discovered after the break, is almost always “No.”
“Is Your Toast Killing You?” Answer: No. Or “Can You Survive a 3000-ft Fall out of an Airplane onto a Jagged Metal Surface?” Answer: No.
With those earlier, more primitive teasers, the Upworthy headline is massively annoying. However, I find them even more annoying than the news channels’ blurbs for one reason: I find myself falling for it time after time.
Seeing “I Didn’t Know Why This Guy was Rubbing a Can on Concrete Slab, When I Saw What He Was Doing, I was Astonished” makes me also want to be astonished, even though I know I probably won’t be. And, yes, I want to know “Why This Cat is Standing on its Hind Feet,” because it almost certainly is “Absolutely Adorable.” Or, well, probably not. But there’s that chance.
Just enough of these click-throughs are astonishing and/or adorable that I click on the many of the other ones, too, in hopes of finding those diamonds amidst the coal.
There’s the rub, the reason that these headlines are so attractive: we want to know more. That’s why the internet exists, after all (believe it or not, it’s about access to information, not about cats doing funny things for Caturday or about Uncle Phil’s edge-of-sanity political beliefs.
There is so much information out there, and we’ve become so jaded to it — to all this knowledge that, even a couple of decades ago, would have been nearly impossible to access without racking up massive amounts of debt for interlibrary loans — that we want the next chunk of knowledge to be super cool, absolutely fantabulous, groundbreakingly … new.
Instead, it’s often just ordinarily amazing, or we already knew it.
Yet…yet…yet…that next click could lead us by the hand to a new understanding of human nature, of our place in the universe, of our connections to others.
So you click.
But you already knew that. After all, you just finished reading this, didn’t you?
If you really wanted to know, the guy is using the concrete to open the can WITHOUT A CAN OPENER! Here’s the link, if you’d like to see it for yourself.