Is Clickbait Tearing America Apart? (How to Help Stop The Cycle)

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Is Clickbait Tearing America Apart? (How to Help Stop The Cycle)
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Elaine Parke examines what drives the never-ending parade of provocative, clickable headlines—and provides suggestions for removing yourself from the negative news cycle.

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The Usage Of Clickbait

Berkeley Springs, WV (December 2021)—Clickbait has taken over the news. We’re bombarded with sensational, shocking, and scandalous stories, often at the expense of accuracy and fairness. (Even celebrities who are used to being scrutinized have recently called out the media for reporting only the most salacious and controversial details from their lives and books.)

This unrelenting cycle of dramatic news is upsetting and divisive, says Elaine Parke—and it’s time we changed the dynamic. But before we can swap clickbait for quality information, we need to understand why the negative culture cycle keeps churning.

“Content creators are desperate for attention in a crowded market,” says Parke, author of The Habits of Unity: 12 Months to a Stronger America…one citizen at a time (Outskirts Press, 2021, ISBN: 978-1-9772-4276-1, $21.95, www.12habits4allofus.org). “To get more views, they distort information and focus on what’s most shocking, often with little regard to whether their story is exaggerated, true, or fair—or to what its impact on society might be.”

Consuming so much negative content makes us feel anxious, suspicious, and frightened. That’s when we’re susceptible to falling down an internet rabbit hole rife with exaggeration and untruths. (Consider all the political and vaccine misinformation swirling around.)

“The real kicker is, many algorithms promote stories that are triggering and divisive, which means more people read them and create them,” says Parke. “It’s a truly vicious cycle.”

We need to take responsibility for the content we consume—but that’s easier said than done. Many people are literally trying to break an addiction to clickbait, says Parke.

Her book, The Habits of Unity, was written to help people take charge of what she calls their “mental nutrition.” Much in the same way that we (hopefully) approach the food we eat, we need to develop the discipline to make more nutritious mental choices every day. Her book’s 365 one-“magic”-minute-a-day uplifting and enjoyable motivationals make it easy to hardwire these choices into habits. Parke hopes to get everyone focused on the same branded behavior each month:

  • January: Help Others
  • February: You Count
  • March: Resolve Conflicts
  • April: Take Care of Our Environment
  • May: Be Grateful
  • June: Reach Higher
  • July: Become Involved
  • August: Know Who You Are
  • September: Do Your Best
  • October: Be Patient and Listen
  • November: Show a Positive Attitude
  • December: Celebrate Community, Family, and Friends

The Habits of Unity have been statistically proven to make community-wide behaviors more uplifting and unified—and given time, Parke believes those benefits can extend to our online lives, too.

A few tips:

  • Focus on uplifting your own life with the 12-month unity system. Spend a few minutes in the morning reading the “magic minute” for that day, and look for ways to apply it to your life. “Your mental nutrition is just as important to your daily well-being as your dietary nutrition,” Parke asserts.
  • Take a break from divisive social and mass media topics for a few days. Find some nourishing mental peace and quiet in nature or with friends and family. “For some people, that might mean consuming only content that will be nourishing, encouraging, and educational,” she says. “Others might need to completely unplug for a few days.”
  • On multi-opinioned, potentially divisive topics, make it a personal rule to always research the topic from at least three different types of sources and perspectives before settling on your truth or perspective. Even then, always be open to new information that might change what you think.
  • Accept the fact that 99 percent of the divisive beliefs out there are NOT first-hand truths or certainties that are worth arguing with friends and loved ones over.

Conclusion

Finally, Parke reminds us not to allow controversial news to seep too heavily into our personal lives. We are in charge of our own thoughts and our own attitudes.

“When we all hold ourselves accountable for the quality of our mental nutrition, our thoughts and behaviors will change for the better,” she says. “Eventually, social and mass media will get the message that we want to like and share a new, more positive brand of messaging that’s about kindness instead of clickbait.”


About the Author:

Elaine Parke, MBA, CS, CM, NSA, is the author of The Habits of Unity: 12 Months to a Stronger America…one citizen at a timeFor 30 years, under the umbrella of the non-profit All of Us, Inc., her scalable and evidence-driven 12 habits of social unity model has transformed several million community citizens and youth across the USA’s Midwest and in Rwanda, helping them feel more caring and connected to one another. In 1993, her monthly branded and colorful habit-forming model was deemed a “Social Invention” by the London Institute for Social Inventions.

Parke spent 25 years fine-tuning her mass-market media skills in corporate America. Then, in 1987, she redirected her focus to helping people get along better. Her first book, Join the Golden Rule Revolution: Practice One Habit…Each Month of the Year, was published in 2000. She has won many awards and recognitions for her work.

Parke is certified in public speaking, violence prevention, conflict management, and mediation, as well as meditation, and has been a popular speaker in her field of driving health and positive social and civic engagement with managed media strategies. She has been an occasional guest marketing lecturer at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and Carnegie Mellon University. To learn more, please visit www.12habits4allofus.org.

About the Book: 

The Habits of Unity: 12 Months to a Stronger America…one citizen at a time (Outskirts Press, 2021, ISBN: 978-1-9772-4276-1, $21.95, www.12habits4allofus.org) is available at bookstores nationwide and from major online booksellers.

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Anna Peel is a professional writer. In the past four years, she has written for many websites including BSC Kids, Wasabi Media Group, Boomtron, and many others. She currently live in Savannah, Georgia and occasionally blogs about fashion during her free time.
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