Who Writes These Mindless Clickbait Stories Online?
I’m a fan of Flipboard, the news clipping app that aggregates a wide variety of stories based on your preferences. It’s a great way to get a view into POVs I don’t embrace, pop culture memes I don’t follow (Instagram, I’m not looking at you), and just plain weird stuff.
But if there is an irritant there, besides the right wing ‘news’ media, it’s these unbelievably dumb articles about things like potatoes:
I am sorry but what kind of writer writes a headline about how much they love a potato recipe? I have recipes I love, and I love potatoes, but this hyperbole is not just silly, it’s stupid. And it’s formulaic and unoriginal in every way. And it’s everywhere.
Which gets me to cliche headlines
There are tons of theories about what kinds of headlines attract readers. We know listicles, those ‘five best’ headlines, that work until they get inflated to things like ’34 ways to improve your sex life’. 34? Really? It must be pretty bad if yours is that far from being great. I’m guilty of listicles but am not joining in the game of creating longer and longer lists until it gets ridiculous. I think I’ve got other stuff to do.
I get that meme writers and influencers are targeting morons, but who can live with themselves writing this crap? Do they believe this is being a writer?
Here’s the deal. If you write this derivative trash and put your name on it, it will haunt you forever. You’ll be typecast as a hack, a lazy writer with no ideas of your own. Those clever things now will look really dumb in a few months when some new cleverness comes along. Remember the ‘One Weird Trick…’ crap? Don’t be that guy, because we will come to hate what you’ve done.
Nobody is original all the time, but
I hate lazy writing, not casual writing, lazy writing. Writing that imitates other lazy writing. If you want to learn to write well, imitate writers that blow your mind, that you admire, not trash that will be popular for a heartbeat and then disappear into the maw of mediocrity that is pop culture.
Ideas are everywhere. Good ones, thoughtful ones, are everywhere. Spend your time on something with legs, something that expresses something you feel, based on your experience, not on junk food. We do not need another ‘I Ate Nothing But McDonald’s Cheeseburgers for a Week and This is What Happened’. That is nothing but clickbait, filler designed to grab eyeballs for a millisecond. Do you really want to be associated with that for the rest of your online life?
Write the hard stuff and the fun stuff
I write lighter weight things, like this rant, but it is the writing where I have to dig deeper into my experience and confusion that makes me a better communicator. Because that is what a writer is. Not a ‘wordsmith’ (gag) or a content creator (guilty, but I get paid to make it readable and useful). A writer is a professional communicator.
Trade secret revealed
Process that last sentence for a minute. Professional communicator. That sounds more valuable than ‘writer’, doesn’t it? The reality is that we should aspire to earning that moniker, whether we write novels, how to, or self help. Humans communicate via stories, stories that others can relate to. Unless I have a huge craving for potatoes, your hack headline just looks stupid and insulting.
Remember, you could get totaled by an asteroid tomorrow, which would suck for about one second. Or something less dramatic, like a pandemic. Write good stuff. Life is too short for this meme-y crap.
You’ll do far better in the long run.
End of rant.