We’ve all seen it those posts with the headline that makes your head want to explode. Someone has done something unbelievable, and you want them to pay. But it’s what happens next, that’s the real damage of click-bait content.
Generally, people have a few reactions to headlines like these;
Share or comment and agree, Click research and post why it’s wrong and get in an online fight about it, or ignore it altogether. You may not realize that no matter which of those options you choose, you contribute to the damage done by click-bait.
Ignoring is the least damaging of the three, but it still leaves the lie floating.
Sharing, commenting, or agreeing does as much harm to you as it does to society. People begin to have a lower opinion of your ability to sort out fiction. Even though you aren’t alone, over 90% of Canadians have fallen prey to click-bait. It’s easy to get sucked in because the best click-bait prey’s on what you want to believe is correct. Don’t like those tree-hugging do-gooders, here’s a professor that will say they are wrong about global warming, Yay that’ll show those jerks. Don’t like a conservative politician, here’s proof they are going to take away your rights. The most effective click-bait leverages something real or true-ish to make its sale.
But here’s the one most people don’t realize. One of the best ways to help fake-news is to debunk it. Every time you click on a fake-news story, you gift it traffic, if you share it on social, you are gifting it exponential traffic. If you engage in an argument about its validity, you are teaching the social media platform that links from that source add traffic to the social platform (i.e. prints money for that platform).
The reality is websites deal in traffic, the more traffic and backlinks. Traffic is the amount of visits a page receives. Backlinks are the number of links back to a domain search engine see. The algorithms that control what you and everyone else sees are pretty numbers smart, but they are emotionally dumb. They don’t look at the context of why you clicked or why you shared; they care about if you did. When 1 million people talk about why an article is wrong, and 20 people think it’s real, all the algorithm knows is that 1,000,020 people interacted with the content and the source. Over time this traffic builds up a Domain Authority Score. Authority score (ranked out of 100) is used by other algorithms to decide where new content shows up in news readers, new social posts, or anywhere else that the internet touches—making it easier for the next story to reach more people.
And repeated impressions of similar ideas affect what you believe, and it’s beyond your control. It’s part of having a human brain. YOU may not fall victim to something you vehemently disagree with, but you’ll likely start believing fake-news you are predisposed to believe the other side has helped spin up.
So if you shouldn’t share fake content, and you shouldn’t leave it to rot, then what is left.
First, if you see a thread about garbage content, screenshot it and start a new thread, don’t allow that content to generate additional traffic. More importantly, vet before you share, even if you agree with it. Check the link to see if it’s from a trusted source. And when you do fall victim be a leader and own up to it, screenshot and it deleted, so you don’t continue to feed that beast. Then post the screenshot and explain why you took it down so others don’t fall for the same trap.
Also, play this game. You will get better at spotting the bullshit and understand the sneaky ways you are continually being manipulated.