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Time to Derail the Hype Train?



You see them on virtually every web page these days, underlined passages screaming “See this amazing speech! What she says at 1:35 will CHANGE YOUR LIFE!” “Her response to her bully is AMAZING!” “What this dad did next was EPIC!” “

As someone who has made the regrettable decision to click on a few of these, I can tell you that:

  1. No, what she said was not life-changing.
  2. Her reaction to the bully wasn’t in the ballpark of amazing, and
  3. There must be some definition of “epic” that I am unfamiliar with.

Most people hopefully ignore clickbait like this, seeing them for the empty promises they are. But considering how they seem to have infected websites more effectively than a stomach bug tearing through a kindergarten class, I doubt it.

As sites like Buzzfeed and Distractify grow in popularity, we’ve unwittingly entered in a verbal arms race, trying to catch each other’s attention, even if just for a few seconds. These days, hyperbole seems to be the only language being spoken on the Internet.

My point is—and, mind you, this is coming from someone working in PR—could we tone down the Internet hype?  Just a little?

It’s easy to see these siren songs for our attention as just the modern version of tabloid headlines, demanding you give 50 cents (or in this case, a click of the mouse) for what will most likely be a disappointing reveal. Annoying? Yes. A waste of time for the reader? Definitely. Harmless? Not exactly.

We’re exhausting our adjectives. If every semi-snappy comeback and ho-hum stunt is “amazing,” what’s left to describe people and events that are actually inspiring? Words have value, or at least they did until we heard that something caught on a random cellphone camera in Topeka was INCREDIBLE!!!

Now, I’m not naïve. Who is going to click on a headline reading “THIS COMEBACK WAS PRETTY OK!” or “AFTER SEEING THIS CURE FOR DRY SKIN, YOU’LL SHRUG AND GO ABOUT YOUR DAY!”

But how many “amazing” or “life-changing” distractions can you experience before the words lose their meaning? Instead of “The Boy Who Cried ‘Wolf’,” we now have “The Blogger Who Cried ‘You’ll Never Believe What Happened!’”

-Robert Keane

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