7 Reasons NOT to Read This Article

Day 62

Allow me to initiate this tongue-in-cheek micro-essay with a disclaimer:

I mean no disparagement to my fellow writers on Medium — the vast majority of whom have more social proof than I do — when I stick my sword of satire into the 98% of story titles out there and righteously bellow:

Can we cool it with the clickbait titles already?

Of course, my indignation is absurd, since it’s been shown that clickbait titles work. Why in God’s name wouldn’t a scrappy writer use titles like 16 Ways to Orgasm Quietly in Public or How Sleeping Like a Bat Saved My Marriage or Can Sneezing While You Pee Really Explode Your Genitals?

I get it. We’re all in this together, trying to be seen and heard through the attention-grabbing fistfight that makes up a standard day for many of us. The rule of title-writing now parallels that of warfare, but instead of “kill or be killed” it’s “write provocative headlines or be ignored.”

The overwhelm of catchy titles calling out for a click reminds me of two things: the scene in Minority Report where Tom Cruise’s character, John Anderton, is overwhelmed with targeted advertisements, and a presser from West Wing, where the whole press corp throws up their hands in unison, pens and pads quaking, everyone throatily calling, “CJ!”

You’d be having more sex if you read this article, John!

Since everything sounds so tantalizing, my mind goes through the same acrobatics it does when I’m in the toothpaste aisle:

  • First: Hmm, there are so many excellent options, I wish I could try them all!
  • Then: This is kind of overwhelming — who knew there were so many toothpastes! Maybe if I just look for the cheapest…
  • To: They’re all basically the same price…maybe the most familiar brand or the one with whitening?
  • Penultimately: Drat, they all have whitening powers. And…what’s the difference between Crest and Colgate, anyway?
  • Finally: Ah, screw it. [drives to the dentist]

I yearn, simply, for a bit more creativity, knowing full well that creativity alone doesn’t get the results most people crave.

This is the same yearning I have for buildings to be built of brick and stone instead of glass and concrete. To have embellishments and recessed windows instead of smooth walls devoid of visual interest.

Maybe I’m living in the past.

Maybe clickbait isn’t the problem. Maybe it’s the new normal, and I’m the proverbial codger on the porch, yelling at the kids to get off the lawn.

This is but a small piece of my lifelong daily writing practice. If you enjoyed this, you may also like some of my other writing, which includes short fiction, novel excerpts, and other essays.

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