Perspiration streaming down your noggin, you click the link. The webpage opens. You read, and within seconds, realize you've been had. The article is nothing like what the Bolded, Underlined, And Title-Cased Words promised you. It's some cut-rate version of that promise. It promised "mind-blowing facts about Back To The Future" but then it just tells you that Eric Stoltz was first cast as Marty McFly, which you already knew. It's like cracking a bottle of Laphroaig and finding it's full of Cutty Sark, or opening up your John Wick Blu-ray case to find a DVD of The Equalizer. In short, you've been fooled. Your brain has been violated. Now you don't know what to trust anymore. You're angry and scared and naked and there's a baby elephant. That is clickbait.
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Cute? Yes. Harbinger of evil? Also yes.
Or at least, that's what I always thought clickbait was. Apparently, everybody else thinks it's something different.
How We Ruined It:
Whenever I see the word "clickbait" now, it's just being used to mean "something on the Internet I don't like." Pandering is now clickbait, but writing something incendiary is also clickbait. Racists write clickbait for other racists, whiny liberals write clickbait for other whiny liberals. Someone put a joke in a title? Gah, you bastards, you clickbaited me! The term has become so broad that it's effectively meaningless. And I know why.