Seen this article before? Read it here. (short 2 mins read)
Growing up in the information age, we are bombarded by messages left, right and center, whether we want to or not. With vast amounts of data to be processed, we exploit well written article headlines by skimming over them without ever reading the article itself.
Traditional articles, especially those in the print media, have long practised writing titles or headers that summarise an entire article into one line. Without reading the full article, one is able to comprehend the gist of the news without boring oneself with unnecessary details that he or she will probably forget anyway. Journalists have perfected this skill and write near perfect headlines that have ironically led to the downfall of engaged readership. People no longer bother to read beyond the first line.
Less and less americans are resorting to print media as their source for news. In 2012, only 23% of people said they still read print newspapers. Since then, Snapchat, founded in 2011, has become the tech giant that had just IPO-ed almost two months ago. This popular social media app, along with Twitter and Facebook, has become youths’ primary source for news. Imagine how print media viewership have further declined since then.
With news being abundant and easily accessible, we are drowned in a sea of content that all seem too important to miss. Readers have since been conditioned to skim through the list of headlines and yet be able to roughly grasp what was being reported; And this is deeply worrying.
Many experts came out to blame tech giants like Facebook for the spread of misinformation that allegedly lead to the election of President Donald Trump. However, I believe the real issue lies in our apathy to understand the details of news. The Bernie Sanders loophole article was precisely written as a critique to this condition.
In parallel, a new wave of writing headlines have emerged; As you’ve guessed it, the clickbait headlines.
screenshot taken from: facebook social feed, click on image to go to the original article
This style of headlines are found predominantly in news reports written by alternative media or opinion pieces by individuals. When I used to come across such articles, it greatly frustrated me. This seemingly coy way of baiting me to visit their website made me defensive. A mental barrier arises within me as I adamantly refuse to fall for this “trap”.
But then, it occurred to me that this way of writing headlines might be a better alternative instead.
For example, instead of this headline on NYtimes posted today,
what if is was rephrased to be
“Trump is drastically changing the tax system. Here’s how.”
What if all news headlines were written this way as well? A slight abstraction of details can lead to drastic changes in behaviour on whether one bothers to read the article. While not a perfect solution, it becomes a natural selection of information of sorts. If you’re not willing to even read and understand the full article, you’re not deserving of the information it bears. In this manner, we can no longer proclaim to be “experts” of current affairs just because we have read every headline there is. People will no longer unknowingly share articles of false information.
If the spread of information is empowerment, then the spread of misinformation is self-depreciation. This is a problem we must face now for ignorance is the trace of our societal issues, ranging from racism to misogyny. Nevertheless, you as an individual have the power to change this by reflecting on your tendencies.
If there is something that can be improved on, do it.