BY ANGELA CAO
Congratulations! By clicking on the title of this article to further your knowledge of “sex culture at JP Stevens,” you have fallen prey to an exponentially growing phenomenon in web-culture: click-bait. Behind click-bait culture, the entertainers and creators of mass media have employed two common ancient advertising tricks, sex and violence.
In fact, the most successful YouTubers often use click-bait that revolve around these two common themes. Pewdiepie, currently the most successful YouTuber in the world, posts videos with titles such as “NUDE SWIM,” “I GOT COVERED IN BLOOD,” and “SENPAI’S BOOTY.” Unsurprisingly, these videos do not actually feature any nudity, gore, or booty. However, all three videos, as well as numerous others, are united by loud capital letters and recurring themes of violence and sex. Other YouTubers’ antics include eating a spoonful of cinnamon powder, shooting themselves with an electric pen, and eating ridiculously spicy peppers. For many aspiring media stars, these two-minute “challenges” are a little price to pay in exchange for their fifteen minutes of internet fame.
Furthermore, these two themes have been around much longer than websites like YouTube. Going far back in time, violent entertainment was provided in the form of gladiator fights, with huge arenas that allowed hundreds to watch warriors get torn apart by wild beasts. In a less gory, modern day parallelism, America’s Funniest Home Videos, a shamelessly amusing television show, features less classical “knock-knock” jokes and more crude gags that involve people getting hit on the head with a baseball bat.
As for sex, need I really explain? In a century when we spend most of our life online, 13% of web searches are for erotic content, and most enterprises in the entertainment industry have underlying themes of sexuality. Don’t tell me entertainers such as Beyoncé and Miley Cyrus, no matter what they claim, don’t use their sexuality to their advantage. One need not describe at length Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love” music video or Miley Cyrus’s 2013 VMA performance. But whatever methods these artists employ, they are obviously successful—Beyoncé’s net worth is $450 million. They are simply businesswomen who feed the public need for something that sells almost too easily.
And here’s something your English teacher doesn’t always teach you: the best hook is the most obvious one. If you become a columnist, your analogy on fish and the meaning of life that took you five coffees and three days to come up with will have exactly zero impact on a lazy reader scrolling through his or her phone. But guess what might work instead? A video of a guy with a moth in his ear! (It’s a real video with about 24 million views, by the way.) Learn from those hilariously captivating Carl’s Jr. advertisements—your consumers might not care about your burgers and fries, but they will care if a gorgeous twenty-year old woman is eating them while washing a car in a bikini.
While click-bait is a trap for weak-willed procrastinators, it is a necessary tool for success for people in the entertainment industry. If Pewdiepie had titled his videos honestly, like “My Trip to Venezuela” or “Opening Packages from Mail,” would he be worth the estimated $4 million that he is today? Probably not. He would be an unrecognized gamer with three subscribers. So, like anything else that feeds the brain for short-term pleasure, the effectiveness of click-bait depends on how you use it. Will you be a victim, or will you use this knowledge to choose what to spend your time on more wisely?