Monday, November 3, 2014

You Won't BELIEVE This Post!

I've mentioned this before, but if there's one thing I can't stand it's sensationalistic headlines.

Oh, let's not kid ourselves--sensationalism has been around for centuries. The old "yellow press" from the turn of the century (not that one, the other one) was just as bad, if not worse, then what we have now. So I'm not laying this out as some sort of "woe is civilization, things are getting worse" sentiment.

And yet.

Like most things from the past decade, minor annoyances or issues that could be dealt with have now been destroyed by social media. Small projects get magnified by multitudes, and our existing framework of society can't handle it.

As such it is with sensationalistic headlines. Whether it be obvious clickbait on your Facebook feed, or half-baked nonsense on a Buzzfeed "article," or a lazily-researched piece by an ideological web site, one would think that the entire world is crumbling. It's a shame, of course, because a lot of people read these intentionally misleading headlines, don't bother to actually read the article (which might not make a difference) and then confirm their already poorly-constructed opinion. It doesn't matter what side of the political spectrum you are on; everybody does it.

And it's not just these basement-run barely-readable web sites, either. Places like cnn.com are just as bad. While they aren't necessarily bad in the headline department, their news-to-fluff ratio is pretty bad. On their front page as of right now, 19 of the headlines are entertainment-based (or otherwise garbage), and at least two of them look like barely-concealed advertisements. Now, I'm not one of those people who thinks that celebrity entertainment isn't news--it certainly has its place, and I want news outlets to cover it--there is a certain annoyance at seeing three "real" articles (about the elections tomorrow, ISIS, and ebola) and literally 35 other links are of...less important topics. (To be fair, the main "serious" articles cover several links under them. But still.) As an aside, when I go to a web site I want to read, not watch videos--if I wanted to watch a video, I'd turn on the TV. Nearly half the "articles" are really just links.

Oddly, I'm not fully against sensationalism. Like similar concepts, I think it's perfectly fine that there are institutions out there that shake things up and keeps the mainstream guys honest. But when the vast majority of the stuff is borderline lies? It's doesn't really work.

I don't think it really matters in the end, though. The same people who fall for the same stupid barely-true comments are probably not really going to change their opinion even if they read a decent examination of it.

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