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Opinion

Your taste in clickbait shows just how shallow you really are

Damn you for making me curious, Internet, writes Paige Nick

12 November 2017 - 00:00 By Paige Nick
It's OK to watch The Real Housewives of Wherever, just don't tell anyone that you do.
It's OK to watch The Real Housewives of Wherever, just don't tell anyone that you do.
Image: Supplied

I tried to divorce myself last week, citing disappointment. If Albert Einstein were alive, do you think he'd ever click on a listicle showing what the children of our favourite famous actors look like now?

Does the guy who invented bitcoin, or the woman training to go into space, glance over both shoulders to check nobody's watching before they click through to an illustrated piece detailing what Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell don't want you to know about their marriage?

I've made it through two decades on the Internet managing to smugly and stoically avoid all the "you won't believe what happeneds" and the "things were going so well until she did thises", which is why I was so sickened to find myself clicking through to a link to "Ellen DeGeneres sells her house (again) for $9.9-million".

Was it worth the clicks? I'm not sure. It's a week later and I still feel dirty and full of self-loathing. There's something morbidly fascinating about wealth and excess, and a roller rink next to the kitchen. Even as you click you know you're being played, you're complicit, yet ... you. still. can't. stop.

The psychology behind why we click is called the "curiosity gap". Damn you for making me curious, Internet. Plus, there are a lot of baddies out there, so maybe we need the odd listicle to dull the pain.

Saying you didn't know what you were doing is always a good excuse if you get caught in an infinite Who Wore It Best? circle of clicking hell. If you don't know where you are on the net, and the "OMG, you won't believe this" headline isn't a dead giveaway, then the comments sections are a good indication that you've strayed into clickbait territory. Watch out for digressions that lead to anger and accusation over race, patriarchy or veganism. Do we really hate ourselves this much?

If only I'd just stopped clicking on the 50 Grown-Up Children of Superstars, before I'd seen the first 10 I barely recognise, and the 36 ads for cellulite-blasting secrets, and nine products I never knew were diet foods, which is really why this fluff piece was published in the first place.

But now I'm too far in and can't stop. And if I don't get to see what I came for, which is the only semi-interesting grown-up kid of my favourite superstars, the one they hinted at in the ad (who obviously comes last, because it's a stupid-tax), then all of this is for nothing and I've squandered the last 90 seconds of my life, and will have to perform hara-kiri with the sole of my shoe.

But we can't just blame the advertisers. Why did I want to see what Demi Moore and Bruce Willis's kid looks like now anyway? What sad thing happened in my childhood to make me care even remotely?

When we click through these things we're no better than a person who buys a magazine with the headline about a woman who gave birth to an alien baby

Everybody knows that when we click through these things we're no better than a person who buys a magazine with the headline about a woman who gave birth to an alien baby or a man who woke up with a penis growing out of his thigh. From here it's just a hop, skip and a jump into a trailer park, a Ninja or Baby hair cut and wearing shorts that show your underbutt.

Although I did feel slightly less ashamed after I pitched this piece to my editor, who admitted to watching 1,000 Ways To Die.

I'd never seen it before, so I dipped into an episode on Netflix, which showed re-enactments of a bunch of idiots causing their own senseless and gruesome deaths. How can anyone watch this drivel, I thought, as I clicked through for my weekly dose of the Real Housewives of Some Awful City Where they Shout A Lot and Have Too Much Money and Privilege.

So I may fall right into Satan's evil trap every now and then, and click through to "OMG you won't believe what brain-numbing nonsense and rubbish comes next!" But I reckon I can still hold my head high. I've never, ever clicked on a Kardashian. Times are tough. But they're never that tough.

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