Why I Refuse to Write Clickbait

I’ve had a Medium account for all of three days now. I created an account because I needed to write down my ideas all in one place. Evidently, this account has become a gateway — not only to writing — but to a myriad of remarkable articles that have been composed by talented and popular writers on the platform.

After an expedition through the most applauded articles, I came to a cold realization. For every work of literary art poured from the heart of a writer, there is another article composed for the sole purpose of creating content. Every word of the latter is precisely orchestrated to establish click value for a brand, one way or another.

By now, you’re three paragraphs into this article and thinking I’m here to attack writers on Medium… I’m not. In today’s economic climate, effectively marketing yourself and your brand is crucial for success. Here’s the problem:

At what point do you lose yourself as a writer?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a multi-national corporation or a little-known freelancer: the possible validation of likes and views can seem too good to pass up. How could we combat the alluring dopamine high of being validated with clickbait content — or rather, why should we combat it at all?

Consider why you generally don’t pay money to use a media platform. If you didn’t already guess, platforms are free to use because you stay engrossed long enough to click on something that creates value. The goal of any social platform is to keep you engaged for as long as possible — even Medium. If popularity was made easy, no one would spend time endlessly refreshing the page after posting an essay.

When you view content that endorses a brand, someone — somewhere — somehow — makes money off of your click. By sticking around and endorsing articles that promote a person or a product, you create value that benefits someone else — and you may not even realize it. The truth is, because platforms feed off of our insatiable hunger for validation, we spend absurd amounts of time and energy clicking through content that makes someone else more successful.

Not only are we creating uncompensated value while we browse clickbait, but we also perpetuate the cycle when we write it ourselves. When we write a post driven by what we think others want to read, we are trading genuine thought for what might bring us enough clicks to build a brand. The result is a cycle that endlessly churns out shallow lists and sensationalized stories that just aren’t authentic.

Imagine if, for one day, all of the top-trending headlines gave voice to the vulnerable poet or the angry environmentalist, rather than pushing a listicle that is subtly funded by a third party.

How would the world be different if we cherished our values before our brands?

To actualize this goal, we don’t have to delete social media and give up on technology. Instead, we can take advantage of technology. What we ought to do is focus on writing authentically, unconventionally, and most importantly: for ourselves. Instead of chasing the unquenchable high of validation, we can take pride in creating work that genuinely connects people and makes the world a better place. After all, the content that makes it to the top is entirely up to us.

Thanks for reading Writers Guild — A Smedian publication

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