I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hyperbolic headlines. They plague even the most banal of stories these days.
I can’t scroll through nary a social media feed without reading grabbers similar to these (totally made up by me):
“This puppy walked by a church….and what this grandmother did next will blow your mind.”
“The Ten Most Amazing Habits You Should Always Do for the Rest of Your Life.”
“Five Post-It Note Colors You MUST Have in Your Office Drawer at Work RIGHT NOW.”
I wish I were exaggerating but here is a screen shot pulled from today’s headlines from one of the worst offenders:
Words like “always,” “never,” “only, “best,” worst,” and loads of other superlatives pepper hundreds of thousands of posts each and every day, all screaming for clicks and attention. At first, it was kind of novel. The too long headlines, reminiscent of people who write an entire email in the subject line, appeared quirky and stood out.
Then everyone in the free world caught on and instead of being funny or inviting me to click on the article, the tactic simply makes me hate reading anything on the internet. And that sucks, because I love reading, and I enjoy scanning headlines to see what’s actually going on in the world. Don’t make me want to quit you, interwebs. (Which we all know I can’t.)
Look, we all have to make a living, but the creation of these sensationalized headlines for mundane everyday occurrences has become telemarketing for our eyeballs. Can we leave yellow journalism where it belongs–a hundred years in the past?
There is a glimmer of hope. The folks at Google have begun working on this issue; a programmer has created a plugin for Chrome called Downworthy, which takes hyperbolic headlines and translates them into more realistic language.
Examples include “Will Blow Your Mind” converting to “Might Perhaps Mildly Entertain You For a Moment”, “Can’t Even Handle” becoming “Can Totally Handle Without Any Significant Issue”, “Literally” becoming “Figuratively” and “Right Now” becoming “Eventually”.
I can’t say I won’t be downloading that plugin. It’s one creative solution to this pervasive problem, short of authors (“authors”) actually coming up with headlines that are relevant and non-irritating. (You can read more about the plugin on CNET.)
On the other hand, if you’re not completely sick of clickbait, you can take part in this guy’s competition to create the best, most hyperbolic headline: see markpollard.net.
Since I am one of the ones who is completely worn out by the boy-who-cried-wolf compulsive-liar syndrome that is passing for journalism, my plea is simply….STOP IT!