It’s a weekday afternoon and I’m participating in my generation’s favourite activity: scrolling.
I see a tweet I want to read. ‘YOU Can Get Your Dream Body – Here’s How’.
As I click on it, a potent mixture of sadness, disgust and confusion stirs in my gut. I’m aware of this uncomfortable hybrid feeling as I read the piece (which is, of course, nothingness that doesn’t, couldn’t possibly, cater to all of the women who will read it). The feeling simmers within me for the rest of the day, until I realise what it means.
We are losing control, I say to my boyfriend when I get home.
Yup, he replies.
During dinner, I think about extreme click-bait headlines that most companies now employ, and how much I despise them. Yet I click on them. I click on them and they infuriate me because the piece beneath is some not at all the thing I was promised, and it happens all over again the next day. Of course, this is not every linked tweet or post – some are wonderful and shareable and spot-on – but it is many.
I realise that worse than a nonsensical, hungry click-bait is an imperative click-bait. I once wrote for a publication where the aim was never to tell women what to do, but to give them advice that they could choose to take. This idea no longer exists. We are told what we ‘can’t live without’, what ‘we must know right now’, what will ‘change our lives’. This absolute insistence is ludicrous, but I try to accept it as the ‘style’ of today.
It shouldn’t bother you so much because social media and journalism are businesses, I tell myself. But it’s sad.
I wash my face and try to convince myself that it’s acceptable, brilliant, even, to pour your everything into a piece of work, sell it short with a description that reduces the meaning to a couple-hundred-character soundbite (including a link), and then align your self-belief with the amount of clicks it gets. I try to convince myself that it’s acceptable to see ‘views’ as the whole picture. I try to convince myself that all work needs to be advertised with a pithy/shocking/vague/contextually untrue tweet. I try to convince myself because I am no stranger to these things. I have done them because they seem like the new ‘thing’, the only thing. So I try to convince myself. But for all of my trying, I can’t.
In bed, I deduce that the problem lies in how I see social media. I’ve been letting it tell me I’m nothing without tips and life rules, that my work is nothing without click-bait untruths.
I fall asleep thinking about the brands and people I’m going to unfollow. For a second, hanging in limbo between sleep and consciousness, I worry I won’t remember them all when I want to do a cull. But the next morning, they flow like cold water right out of the tap.