This Guy Writes Clickbait Headlines For A Living, And It’s Making Him Suicidal!
You probably hate me just from reading that title, huh? You are thinking, “Not only does this dillhole create clickbait headlines, but he also jokes about something as serious as suicide?”
I understand where you are coming from. I hate myself most days, and that’s not a joke. I deal with depression most days, and that’s also not a joke. Am I suicidal though? Not exactly. I have no desire to kill myself; however, there are days when I wouldn’t mind choking to death on a summer kale salad topped with blueberries and walnuts. But that’s mostly because I think it would be impressive to die while eating three “superfoods” that could literally save your life.
So yeah, I’m not suicidal, and I apologize for the misleading title. Hopefully by the end of this post you’ll understand why I did it.
I have been a freelance writer for six years. For six years I have been writing shit I don’t believe in just to barely make it in life. I’ve created articles and content for plumbing companies, entertainment websites, gossip blogs, viral video sites, trivia books, board games, etc. I’ve held meaningless titles like, “social media manager,” “content manager,” and “you know, that one guy.”
And during my darkest times, I put on a fucking garden gnome mask and danced for people on Fiverr.
Yes. People actually gave me money to do that, and at the time I thought it was because they genuinely thought it was entertaining, but I look back four years later and realize they probably ordered the service just to see if someone was desperate enough to go through with it.
“No way he does it!” Well, I did the shit out of it. Thanks for the five bucks, or $3.58 after Fiverr and Paypal raided my couch for loose change.
So why have I been doing something I hate for six years? Because it’s comfortable. I’m decent at it. I’ve managed to build a nice portfolio and receive a “top rated” badge on a few freelancing websites, which makes it easier to attract those rare clients who are willing to pay you more than minimum wage.
Basically, all the same reasons you’re still stuck at a job you hate. I feel trapped. I wake up every morning with a frown on my face. I’ll wait a few minutes to turn on my computer, so that I can stare at the black screen and study my miserable reflection. In those few minutes I dream of all the things I’d rather be doing. All the scripts I’d rather be writing. All the jokes I’d rather be creating. All the trails I’d rather be hiking. And then I press the power button, enter my password and get to work finding viral content and writing headlines similar to these…
OH MY GOD! IT’S FUCKING INFURIATING, RIGHT? It sounds like they’re starting work on a Dr. Seuss-like cooking book for adults who have never stepped inside a kitchen:
He sticks the hair pick inside the tomato
And what he does next will make you say, “Whoa!”
Once you learn this trick, you’ll be able to cut veggies anywhere
While driving in a car, flying in a plane or floating inside a boat
If I have to write one more of these, I might just slit my fucking throat!
That’s my life right now. When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them, “I’m a freelance writer online,” and they always seem so impressed by this. In their heads, I’m sitting in front of some swanky desk, sipping on Starbucks and writing groundbreaking articles for The Washington Post.
But in reality, my laptop is sitting on top of a messy coffee table, Starbucks is far too expensive (plus caffeine has the power to make my heart explode), and the content I write is about as groundbreaking as the dialogue in the porno you’re about to watch after reading this. People also believe working from home is the greatest thing in the world. You save on gas, getting dressed is optional, your boss can’t walk by and awkwardly massage your shoulders, you can yell things like, “FUCK THIS COMPUTER!” without making Dan and Sally feel uncomfortable.
There are disadvantages though. One of the main ones being loneliness. Do you think Jim would have continued selling paper if he didn’t have Dwight to prank and Pam to flirt with? Your coworkers might annoy you some days, but you would probably miss them if they disappeared. Did we all forget about Kevin McCallister’s traumatizing experience? You need people, even if those people wet the bed when they drink too much soda. Talking and joking with your coworkers takes away some of the stress.
And yes, writing and finding viral content is stressful. I have worked for websites boasting over three million likes on Facebook, and I have worked for sites who had two or three thousand. The bigger sites would have teams of people working together to find viral content, write “engaging” titles, study the videos to find the perfect title image, and brainstorm the perfect caption for the post on Facebook. This process would take all freaking day. Even something as simple as finding the right emoji to end the caption with could take an hour or two some days. Looking at the Facebook traffic to figure out the best times to share content and researching the competition is also a necessity.
One of the more frustrating parts of this process is the manager who attempts to keep the team motivated by trying to convince us we’re bringing people joy! We are sharing heartwarming videos with people! We are putting smiles on millions of beautiful faces around the world! SO WHY AREN’T YOU SMILING, ZACHARY? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? DON’T YOU ENJOY WATCHING AN OVERWEIGHT GRANDPA FALL OFF A TRAMPOLINE?
But wait…don’t call him a grandpa and don’t point out his weight. You can’t put that in the title. It might offend someone, and we’re all about those positive vibes. That’s all we care about.
Of course, we all know a smile doesn’t mean shit to the website owner if that smiling person fails to like, comment, share and click on the link to visit the website. If people aren’t clicking on the story, the website isn’t making any money, and that’s where those clickbait titles come in. If you’re not an established site producing original content, you can’t afford to give away the twist in the title. If a Facebook user sees some random viral video site promoting a story, and the title reads, “Clever Dude Explains How A Hair Pick Can Help You Cut Onions” they probably won’t click on the link unless they truly want to improve their kitchen game.
But when you say…
The average user gets curious. Maybe this “he” character figured out a way to brush his hair with an onion. That’s something you wouldn’t want to miss out on. If people are brushing their hair with onions, you don’t want to be the last one to find out. Thankfully, some social media websites are working to place restrictions on the more obvious clickbait titles, and even the most vulnerable internet users are starting to sniff out the worst offenders. There is hope.
So the next time you see one of those clickbait headlines, please don’t be so quick to hate the person who wrote it. I can guarantee you they are miserable enough. Your nasty comments will only make them feel worse.
Hopefully I don’t sound too much like an ungrateful douchebag in this post. I put an end to the toxic work relationships, and I respect all my current clients. I don’t miss deadlines, I’m always willing to do extra work, I’m quick to answer their questions. They are running a business and I’m here to help. I might not always be passionate about the work, but my fear of disappointing people makes up for that lack of passion. I look forward to the day I can work on something I am truly passionate about.
It will happen one day, and I hope it happens for you too.