You know you didn’t want to click this. You saw it and let out a wail of despair that Mockingbird is resorting to “click-bait” headlines, but you saw the adorable puppy as the featured image and clicked anyway. So now here you are.
“Click-bait” is a tactic used by all different kinds of websites (perfected by Buzzfeed and Upworthy) to inflate page views and Facebook shares. These raw statistics make a site more attractive to advertisers and drive revenue for a site. I’ve definitely succumbed to these. They aren’t inherently bad, but when I waste away a good chunk of my day watching puppies grow up in thirty minute videos, I feel like I’ve just eaten a whole bag of Doritos. “Why did I just do that?” I ask myself.
There’s a great article from The American Reader on “The Grammar of Clickbait” about how these headlines are crafted to draw us into things that have relatively little actual content. It says that there are four types of clickbait headlines: accusatory, empowering, defensive, and cryptic. Each of these four categories goads us into clicking by appealing to curiosity or guilt, but what is found on the other side rarely lives up to the promise of the headline. We can’t help ourselves though. What this article misses, though, is that the psychology of the clickbait subconscious was written nearly two thousand years ago by the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
I know that there’s pretty much nothing of substance behind these headlines but I click them anyway in the same way I know there’s no nutritional value in Mike ‘n’ Ikes, but I shove fistfuls of them in my mouth anyway. It’s the same reason I spent so many hours watching Jersey Shore, why I can’t stop listening to “Timber” by Pitbull and KE$HA, and why I can’t for the life of me, stop watching Big Brother every summer (somebody please help me with this one.) I do the things I do not want to do. For all of our hard-nosed determination and will to resist these types of things, there’s a counter-will telling us to do them, and usually that counter-will wins out.
These are relatively funny things that I want to stop doing but can’t, but we all know that Romans 7 points to much more serious things as well. I want to be a person who is a model of forgiveness, but I still have feelings of terrible hatred towards that person who did me wrong one time. I want to be the person who will drop everything if a friend needs to talk, but I find a pathetic excuse not to. I want to be an open and honest person, but when it comes really opening up my heart, my pride won’t let me.
Whether it’s clickbait or something darker, it all draws from the same psychology found in this passage. We live our lives in counterbalance with the shoulds and oughts that we know so well. “Seven Signs Romans 7 Applies to You Perfectly?” Nope. For you and me there’s only one: we are human beings. And it’s a sure enough sign to keep us clicking.
There’s only ever been (and will ever be) one exception to this rule, and you probably know his name. He came and lived this human experience and fulfilled the law. We and our hearts with sin living in us are incapable of doing so. Thanks to Christ’s sacrifice we are now viewed by God as the exception, even though we are the Romans 7 rule.
This has been way too serious for me. I need to go buy some white cheddar popcorn and watch re-runs of Wipeout.
Also, due to some soul-searching, we promise not to ironically use clickbait titles in our posts anymore. Although, if you think about Romans 7, that probably means you’ll be seeing a lot of them soon. Sorry.