Well, you probably will believe. It’s really not that shocking and that’s basically the point.
We’ve all given into the clickbait temptation before. The story just seems so interesting, we click the link and then immediately regret it.
Clickbait is everywhere, including on purportedly Christian sites. But before we talk about Christian clickbait specifically, let’s establish what clickbait is because the definition matters.
An intriguing headline is not clickbait. Putting numbers in your title is not clickbait. A tweet asking a question is not clickbait.
Those are some of the ways content producers (bloggers, writers, etc.) try to attract readers in a sea of endless options. You see a countless stream of tweets, updates and links. How do I get you to notice mine?
Regardless of the content’s worth, it takes work to have it be noticed by more than immediate family (Hi, mom!). Producers learn to be promoters because they feel their content is worth your time.
So not everything is clickbait, but let’s be clear—many websites are engaging in clickbait, including ones claiming to be Christian. And that’s a problem.
It’s a problem because aspects inherent to clickbait are antithetical to Christianity. Clickbait is antichristian. Here’s why.
Clickbait is dishonest.
The term “clickbait” carries with it the idea of deception. Clickbait promises to give you useful or at least interesting information, but it fails to deliver worthwhile content.
Every time you click, you realize the “shocking” claim from the headline isn’t really that shocking or even important. You’ve been fooled. Think how much that contradicts the gospel.
We are clay jars feebly presenting the truly amazing truth that God became man, took our sins on Himself, died in our place and rose again victorious over sin and death. That is an unbelievable story that we claim is not only believable, but entirely true.
When a site that says it is Christian, yet it lies to you in order to entice you to read their stories, they aren’t just disappointing you. They are undercutting the entire Christian message and undermining our shared credibility.
Clickbait is exploitive.
In more ways than one, clickbait exploits others to the personal benefit of the site owners.
First, the site exploits you by convincing you the article will deliver some value to you as a reader. Most often, it fails to provide any useful information and you are cheated.
Secondly, when they actually do provide worthwhile information, the sites often cannibalize other legitimate news sources. But they rarely do their own reporting, so you have no idea how accurate or trustworthy what you read is.
Finally, many of the sites are loaded with ads—autoplay sidebar ads, pop-up ads, banner ads, embedded video ads—all designed to maximize income, but they often employ immigrants taking classes to learn English and pay them next to nothing for their time.
Clickbait is divisive.
Instead of seeking to further a significant conversation or make rational, Christian arguments about a topic, clickbait sites will often just gin up traffic by offering a controversial or contrarian take.
Like many political talking heads, Christian controversialists most often take a “red meat” approach to giving their readers what they want to hear, never challenging their reader’s preconceptions.
Taking a strong stance attacking the media, Hollywood, “liberals” or any other number of others will generate attention and social media shares because people most often share what affirms their opinions, even if it is overly aggressive (or not even truthful).
I’m not saying, websites can’t write about controversial things—I’ve regularly written on abortion and gay marriage. But I am saying Christians should seek a solution to move past the controversy, not just offer more takes that rile up anger and distrust between groups of people.
Christians have only one enemy and it’s not the person who casts a vote differently than you in an election or holds an opinion contrary to yours. Those are the people we are called to love and reach.
Clickbait sites that aren’t Christian are annoying, but they aren’t hypocritical. Christian sites should avoid all clickbait content and marketing. But those who use it currently, aren’t going to change unless you do.
You as a Christian reader must stop clicking the links, sharing the posts and promoting the site. You have all the power, but you give that up when you go to their sites and reaffirm their commitment to stories and marketing that undermine the cause of Christ, which they claim to support.
To use their language, that’s the shocking truth every Christian clickbait site doesn’t want you to know. If you stop clicking they’ll be forced to change.