We are suckers for click-bait. We can’t resist the not so cleverly worded headlines in our newsfeed that lures us in to an article, video or picture about some Asian kid’s weird body trick, some celebrity’s wardrobe malfunction, some politician’s steamy tryst, some athlete’s incredible catch. It is painfully obvious what these websites are aiming for: traffic. The more clicks they get on a certain article, the more they can make from advertisers.
Those of us who spend any amount of time on social media are now well-acquainted with the baiting techniques of these articles. Here are some examples for those who are not familiar with what I’m talking about:
“They laughed when she walked on stage, but soon their jaws were on the floor”
“This man looks like a homeless man, but no one expected him to do this”
“Shelly Swivelhips stuns in this gorgeous gown”
“You will not believe what Senator Phibber just did!”
“I took the what sort of person are you…turns out I’m gullible…now you take the quiz.”
“Post this as your Facebook status to protect you from Facebook infringing on your privacy.”
All of these headlines are a worm on a shameless hook, aimed at one thing…web traffic. Even my title is designed to do the same, I want you to read my blog, so I used reverse psychology knowing that mankind is intrigued by the forbidden, crazed by curiosity, infatuated with the unknown, and terrified of being “left out”. We probably couldn’t care less about any of these articles, videos, pictures, or quizzes and yet we find ourselves perusing these things mindlessly.
The reason I make a point of this is because it is becoming more and more apparent that we as individuals are changing as a result of social media; and it would appear that this change is not for the best! We have a lust for the viral. As soon as something begins trending, the market is saturated with it and we, the consumer, are faced with a dilemma: do we want to find out what “everyone else” is so interested in, or will we be left out of what’s happening?
This exposes a deep longing found within every human being, planted there by the Almighty; we long to be accepted, welcomed, and “in”. We are terrified of being rejected, shunned, or “out”. Since the fall of Adam, we have been cut off from the King of Heaven, and ever since have sought for that sense of refuge, safety, or welcome in some way or another. We are in constant search of getting “in”, it is why patriotism has such a strong draw, or why viral videos and articles so allure us; it makes us feel as if we belong. Sadly, the desire for fraternity that drives us to watch a viral video, is a desire that can only be met in being united in fraternity with Christ, “a brother born for adversity” (Pr. 17:17). That longing for fellowship, camaraderie, togetherness, “in-ness” can only be met in the Lord Jesus.
A second thing this exposes, is that we have a lust to be something! Teenagers are growing up with video cameras in their pockets and thus it makes every smartphone owner a potential celebrity if their video is impressive enough, their picture is racy enough, their blogposts clever enough, their art creative enough. I’ve noticed that even Christian bloggers are reaching for cheap gimmicks to get readers and followers; here’s a sample of Christian blogposts titles:
“I Didn’t Wait for My Future Spouse, and You Shouldn’t Either”
“I Didn’t Marry My Best Friend”
“I am not saving myself for marriage.”
“Stop Reading Your Bible”
And many others of this variety. Many of these go on to say wise, even profound things. The problem is that we are playing a game that would be more well-suited to a foul-mouthed shock jock than to a Christian writer. This shows in us a craving for importance, notoriety, significance. Again, mankind’s search for significance is found in giving up one’s own significance in light of Christ’s significance.
Thirdly, we are increasingly becoming a generation that doesn’t know how to think critically and evaluate things prudently. Thus, we are led by a hook in the nose. Wherever our twitter feed leads us is where we go! Whatever is in front of us we read, watch, etc. As Christians, we need to think about what we consume; Scripture teaches us to be fruitful & productive and part of this necessitates consuming. We need to consume only for the purpose of fruitfulness; we eat food for the sake of sustaining life and adding joy to life. However, over-consumption and unhealthy consumption leads to a life that is unproductive and unfruitful. Same goes for our media consumption. It is fine and dandy to consume media, but as Christians we most show moderation and wisdom in how much and what sort of media we consume. Furthermore, our consuming of it must be driven by a purpose of productivity for God’s kingdom, rather than an enjoyment of Satan’s kingdom!
Thus, for Christian bloggers and writers who are reading this remember to resist the temptation of finding importance and significance in what Google Analytics says about you. For Christians reading this, do not be led by this world, but rather be led by the Sprit and the Word in how you walk through and handle the things of this world (see what 1 John 2:15 has to say about this). And for everyone else reading this––probably because my clever title tempted you into reading this––we click on these things because we want the common experience and fraternity of being “in”. We want to belong. Hell’s mouth is open wide and will gladly welcome all, with the cost of eternal isolation, death, and separation from God and our fellow man. Christ alone offers true acceptance (Eph. 1:6), welcome, fraternity, and belonging to all who come unto Him as the lone source of salvation for we weary, heavy-laden, and thirsty social media users.