Social media has taught us that everyone has a voice, an opinion to share and ideas on every issue. It has also taught us that very little matters outside 140 characters and the headline attached to a post. The two have formed an ugly new trend in the present-day journalism and Internet scenes, one that needs to stop.
As journalists, we hope to entice readers with catchy headlines — pull you in, inform you and, yes, cash in on ad revenue. This isn’t “clickbait,” however. David Grant of the Christian Science Monitor once told me, “It’s not click bait if it’s done tastefully.”
He is right, catchy headlines are merely an avenue for websites to draw reader interest in a world of information overload.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you see it), clickbait is no longer a major issue. It has taken a back seat to a much more pressing and threatening issue for journalists: headline-reading only.
Following the announcement that Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson was not indicted for killing 18-year-old Michael Brown, major news outlets took to Twitter with their respective stories. Less than a minute after many of the articles went up, hundreds and hundreds of responses flooded in. Comments ranged from civil discussion to sickening and blatant racism on both sides.
As I watched the number of replies skyrocket, I thought to myself, “None of these people actually read the piece.”
Back on April 1, NPR published an article on their social media channels with the headline: “Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?”
Comments included, “Because we are fat and stupid,” “I read every day, sometimes many times” and many more.
But, when you clicked on the link and were redirected to the NPR website, you were met with a message:
“Congratulations, genuine readers and happy April Fools’ Day!
We sometimes get the sense that some people are commenting on NPR stories that they haven’t actually read. If you are reading this, please like this post and do not comment on it. Then let’s see what people have to say about this ‘story.’”
The original post garnered nearly 2,000 comments, a majority people who simply didn’t take the time to click and read. That is inexcusable.
It is 2014 and a lifetime’s worth of information is at our fingertips. A quick search on politics will draw you 831 million results. That is 831,000,000.
Not only is there an influx of information, there are sources from every angle of any argument known to man. There are no excuses why you should draw conclusions about a political story because of a news piece on a website with “democrat” or “republican” in its name. Again, it’s inexcusable.
Twenty years ago, you had to bury yourself in encyclopedias to find even a fraction of the information we have now. Even then, you’d be lucky to round out an argument with information on various sides.
Today, we have the ability. We have the knowledge. Are we just simply being lazy?
If so, no longer is that an excuse. My advice? Stop posting your thoughts based on knee-jerk reactions. Take the time and read multiple sites. Examine evidence. Even then, the best course of action may be to say nothing at all. But, should you, you will have the knowledge and the tolerance to form an opinion that isn’t ignorant.
In today’s day and age, ignorance abounds, but — and for the last time — that is not a just excuse anymore.