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Clickbait and its influence on culture

An analysis of how sensationalism affects individuals and societies as a whole.

Sunday June 25, 2017,

11 min Read


Interested, at least a part of you was? Congratulations on falling victim to clickbait.


Clickbait is basically content designed to elicit responses and interest from users which would encourage them to then click on the titles of the aforesaid pages.

A goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds, humans- 8 seconds. Humans’ attention span was 12 seconds in 2000, and it changed to 8 seconds. We get distracted in quicker time than a goldfish does. In times like these, it is suffice to say that people are more inclined to fall for clickbait than an article in say, a journal or even the newspapers.

How has this happened? 

Research conducted shows that humans tend to get inclined towards extremes of emotions. When an article states that the above post will boil your blood, or make your day, an individual is inclined to seek that hit of dopamine which could probably make us feel better, make us realize that we are not the only one with that insecurity, or simply make us more knowledgeable, or so we think.


The millennial generation is one with access to information at every given avenue. We have permissions to read from possibly every journal, every website in the world and increase our knowledge manifold. Every journal and directory in the world is at our disposal but we prefer websites that are immensely shallow? With a history so varied and a world so interesting, each individual varying from the other in terms of appearance and thought processes, is that was has stimulated our intellect?

This generation, apart from polarities of emotional words, is more inclined towards ‘pleasure articles’. Articles that soothe our mind and heart, even for that temporary 5 seconds. We seek information through pictures and not words, use the right hemisphere of our brain more than the left. Those with this desire to know and are now a niche, whereas it should be each individual’s right and aim to seek, envision and imagine. Thus, when an article would state ‘24 cute cat gifs to make your day’, it has the positive emotion, has the word ‘cute’ and has pictures, the world would visit it, whereas if an article would say ‘A keen investigation into the 9 lives of cats’, it would be visited by a meagre handful of people.

Clickbait and Culture-

These trends, started in order to earn money by large websites has transformed culture. Culture is an overused word no doubt, and every sensitive issue is said to hamper or endanger cultures. Yet, here it gravely has, and is in the process of hampering it further. As we know, culture is shaped through values, processes, knowledge and education (formal and informal). Let us talk about another key aspect of clickbait here- Prejudices.

If all the individuals from a particular society are misinformed and grow up with angst and frustration that should not have existed in the first place, it would be problematic. It would change the way we look at our fellow beings, other religions as well as nations who are nothing but our equals, with good hearts and minds. Not to single out the millennial generation, but each individual usually has a tendency of loving to criticize and hating to praise. This holds true for all instances, including articles, it has become human nature to get lured by negativity or articles bashing someone

Few Examples-

Another clickbait article was that of ‘A decorated Ex-Indian Captain being hounded by Anti India Pakistani fans.’ In the article, they were called a rogue state. On investigating further and simply watching the video attached without reading what was written and ignoring the malice prevalent in that article, close observation made it obvious that it was just a large group of Pakistanis who were star struck by him and wanted to click pictures with him. He too was smiling back at them. It is worrisome to think how an article like that shape the mind of somebody who actually succumbs to what was in the article. It would result in tapping the negative emotions of all individuals, and eventually create more prejudice and hate. Stereotypes would be created and strengthened in the minds of people, which should not have even been a point of discussion in the first place.

This was an example of a nation vs nation. Looking at the whole Snapchat fiasco, the exact same hate occurred, only for a single person and the application he created with love for the entire world. He had never called Indians poor, it was an alleged statement which he was accused of making by one disgruntled employee in 2015. The same accusation was made by the employee for the country of Spain too, there was no uproar in that country. Indians, with the tendency of getting offended and succumbing was solely responsible for this event, which spared no one, right from the Snapchat CEO, his family, his application, or even a similar sounding application- Snapdeal!

Politics and Sensationalism-

Clickbait is a vicious cycle. People click on it more than other articles, and hence, creators use it to spread news, that is occasionally fictional/semi fictional. Look at the so called political moves that have made it to our timelines. The whole act of the current Government saying that it is optional to change your name after marriage made it to each of our ‘walls’, or the fact that the Aadhar Card was to be made mandatory. A wake-up call to each individual who fell for it- These provisions always existed and it was just made popular to generate a few million more clicks, shares and comments. “Wow, what a move by the Government” was a common comment, less known fact being that it wasn’t this Government who had done it at all, all they did was publicize and market the fact that a law and a provision already existed. Social media and other websites did the rest of the job. A CM saying private medical colleges should not have reservations, when they never actually did. Public offices are thriving on the small attention span of people who do not like to dig into the actual law and news and is shaping their thought processes in a way which would benefit them through the citizen’s future behaviour (say, a vote in the next elections?)

Wider Perspective- Look at our ex-Prime Minister, it may be fine to call him quiet and mute but it is not fine to know about his contributions to India and its economy with regards to Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization. A wider perspective of individuals and not just impressions elicited by articles (which may or may not have bias) should be aimed for.

Another example propaganda is that of a new Bollywood movie which is set in the Emergency period. It has grabbed all eyeballs and headlines and bashes the leaders which existed during Emergency period and does not even require a No Objection Certificate(NOC) from that Government. The movie is being hailed as a brave movie, whereas a movie about our current Prime Minister needs to get an NOC from every person involved. The movie’s trailer and plotline have gone viral online, and our lack of patience as a society and ‘love to hate’ has already made us fans and the movie a possible hit. All this was done without digging into what the movie was all about, what the Emergency period was like. We, as a collective society are unknowingly falling victim to propaganda all the time, which is slowly altering our culture.

Deteriorating Art?

Music forms the crux of culture. It is truly gut-wrenching to see this beautiful art form being sensationalised too, whether it is the art, or the artists.

Looking at an example of artists first, a popular pop star recently came down to India. His performance received mixed reviews but he did end up having a successful concert, with tickets priced exorbitantly. More than critically analysing his performance, what thrived was the fact that he came to our country and played with a few underprivileged children? The 2 hours that he was supposed to treat his audience with care and love were ignored because of those ‘cute’ 15 seconds that he spent with the children, who have said, on record that they could not identify him and mistook him to be a famous Indian Rapper. His goodwill increased manifold and he successfully manipulated emotions of people without considering that he should have respected his audience and their support.

It is very ironical that 20 years back, technology was less rampant, yet, people had an immense desire for classic and enriching music. There were records, tapes, live concerts of musicians thrived multifold. Even in India, every genre had the cream of the artists being revered, whether it was disco, ballads or Broadway.

20 years later, the irony has intensified- The fact is that people like to pull someone with less musical skills and talent down and make fun of artists who are a mockery, more than appreciating those who are good. Articles bash ‘artists’ whose sole intention is to go viral because of their quirky, obnoxious and crude antics. People share these songs and label them as cringe, not realizing that each of us is the reason why such artists reach the stage of stardom and popularity. Shouldn’t niche and beautiful musicians be promoted the way these less qualified singers are?

Even in terms of books, there are authors a figure whose quotes and tweets feature very often on such sites, he is a figure who has achieved some sort of fame and hence his books become talking points. The concept of ‘so-bad it’s good’ never existed before the clickbait articles came into the picture, and that was when art was revered more than it is now. A famous K-pop song may have been funny and gone viral, but how many of us have actually watched videos of less popular dancers who are masters in their genres?

In my opinion, one of the most disturbing aspects of these websites are the articles they write on the children of celebrities. 16 year olds are described with adjectives that are paedophilic in nature, pictures of their celebrations and events are leaked online. The celebrities and their contributions towards art and society should be spoken about. Not only are these children finding it tough to live a normal life, but is this how we would want our society to look at 16 and 17 year olds?


The root cause of each individual and his tryst with clickbait is to be more social, and appear to be more well informed in order to converse better with his peers/subordinates and families.

People should awake from their illusions and realize that they are not becoming more intelligent. Most individuals are now living in a circle of oblivion. They only read what corporations and giants want them to read, only imbibing information that is provided on a platter to them.


Self-reflection should be done. Our society as a whole must redefine what is cool. People mocking cultures like music, movies and books are not cool. Those generating hatred, dislike, rebellion and enmity are uncool. Those levying baseless allegations and raking up an old storm to increase the number of shares on their page should be the antithesis of cool.

A desire to learn rather than desire to converse in a shallow manner should be inculcated. Reading should be made compulsory in education whether it is newspapers, novels or textbooks. Flipping pages of a book should be considered cool rather than clicking on articles. A desire for truth or the ‘Satyagraha’ is required now as much as it was earlier.

It is only when we go back a generation or two, seek information and art for self-fulfilment can when appreciation occur. Only once we appreciate the truth, respect all individuals, love and regard our own and other cultures can self fulfilment occur, in terms of aptitude and attitude. Clickbait should reach full circle- As a whole, diminish in the people’s mind, never to spring up again. Manipulation must stop permanently, rationalization and pragmatism must be advocated strongly.