The click bait epidemic seems to be continuing to spread with more and more ‘over-the-top’ titles trying to entice people to open various articles and videos posted on the internet.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Photographs have been added to serve as visual breaks.
Given that many YouTube channels and websites are fully dependent on click-based advertising revenues to cover their costs and generate income, it is easy to understand why creators try to create interesting headlines for their postings.
In my mind what becomes tiresome is when headlines and titles are sensationalized to the point where a sane person would find it hard to believe the information in the posting can be possible, or even real. Unfortunately often it isn’t.
The algorithms that direct search engine results are designed to push readers and viewers towards content similar to what they have visited in the past. Social media platforms trace individual views, and many other online activities, to build profiles of their users. The content that is “recommended for you” is generated by the algorithms designed and used by the platform.
The information funnel becomes tighter and tighter as these algorithms continually adjust their definition of each user. This allows social media platforms to feed their users a diet of ‘targeted’ information and advertising messages.
In essence, you become the product that is being sold to advertisers. So, if you have specific interests you will be exposed to an increased volume of that subject matter. The advertising messages and you receive will be from advertisers interested in that specific audience. It all makes sense, but it can be insidious.
As long as people keep consuming links fed to them by social media algorithms and responding to social media prompts, the skewing to said material increases at the expense of all other possible inputs.
In a broad, societal context this has created very real dangers. Rather than the internet being a portal to a wide and diverse assortment of real, verifiable information, the algorithms used by social media tend to limit their users’ exposure to internet content that fits the profile created by the algorithm.
Your online world often becomes smaller and smaller. The boundary between authenticated, true information and completely fabricated nonsense is obliterated. Eventually people can end up consuming a diet composed entirely of fabrications. Unless someone is adept at separating fact from fiction a distorted view of reality can result.
As humans we are most comfortable when our existing attitudes, beliefs and behaviours are not challenged. Social media algorithms are designed to reinforce what currently exists in our minds… not challenge it. Whether those attitudes, thoughts and behaviours are bizarre and/or toxic matters not to the algorithms. You’ll just be fed more of the same.
Unfortunately these algorithms have contributed to people living in total fabrications they perceive as reality. Tribalism and group manipulation can follow with related dangers being obvious. If you happen to believe in some of the ridiculous conspiracy theories that are rampant on the internet… don’t bother trying to post a comment on this website.
Bringing all of this back to photography… over the past number of months I have seen an increasing volume of click bait content. The bulk of it has been flooding YouTube, probably because content creators have little out-of-pocket costs associated with producing sensationalized content for YouTube. Anyone can sit in front of a camera mounted on a tripod and record a video, then upload it.
Scanning photography related YouTube videos can result in an avalanche of ‘The best of…”, The secret of…”, “Battle of the…”, “Simple steps to make a fortune…”, “The one trick you need to know…”, “The ultimate…”. I forced myself to watch some of this content in preparation for this article. Precious time that I will never get back.
Most of us have a limited amount of time that we can spend online acquiring information about photography. If you’re like me, you don’t want to waste your time with click bait. I have become much more discerning when doing on line searches for information. This is especially true with YouTube. I do my best to be very specific with my search parameters so I can avoid as much hyped-up drivel as possible.
Photographers are lucky in that we are still served by some very good, professional websites and some credible YouTube channels. Like most of you, I don’t have a lot of spare time but there are some photography websites that I visit on occasion. These include PhotographyLife, Mirrorless Comparisons, Cambridge in Colour, and Imaging Resource. I also occasionally visit the websites of some professional photographers who use Olympus gear.
I’m sure readers can identify other websites that they enjoy and value. At a time when the click bait epidemic is growing rapidly, it is important that photographers try to help each other find good, credible information about photography. The 4 websites noted above may be of interest. Many readers will likely already be aware of these sites, and visiting them.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. This is the 1,032nd article published on this website since its original inception.
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