My Facebook friends are very tolerant. My online persona is curmudgeonly, sarcastic, and outspoken. I have to work very hard to maintain this image since it’s so completely opposite to the sweet and unassuming person I am in real life.
Nonetheless, I feel an obligation to keep my page entertaining. As much fun as it is to spend most of my Facebook time arguing about politics and religion, I can sense the eye-rolls from my friends who are smart enough to avoid engaging in such discussions. And I don’t want my feed to be full of depressing topics. So, like my idol George Carlin, I make sure to keep up a steady flow of goofy shit. I can tell by the number of “likes” that this is what the people want.
But every so often, something will set me off – something I feel strongly enough about to put some effort into making my point in a (hopefully) entertaining manner. If you read The Onion, you know what a powerful tool satire can be in the right hands. I don’t claim to be as good at it as they are, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.
Anyone who surfs the web is familiar with the scourge of clickbait, web content of dubious quality designed solely to solicit mouse clicks. There’s enough of this stuff on the web to indicate that the bogus economy of click-through revenue generation is positively booming, although I still don’t quite understand how content providers actually make money off it.
The most common form of clickbait is the “listicle.” The term is a portmanteau of the words “list” and “article,” and that’s exactly what it is; a list of items presented as a web article. It’s the easiest writing job in the world, and the web is loaded with them, ranging from the potentially interesting (“The 100 Best Albums of the Last 20 Years”) to the shameless (“21 Celebrities Who Can’t Keep Their Clothes On”). They generate buttloads of clicks because the list items are arranged less than five to a page, so as you wear out your index finger clicking through the whole presentation, you can almost hear the faint sound of a distant cash register ringing away.
However, clickbait purveyors aren’t satisfied with just suckering you in. They want all your friends, too. That’s why each article usually has a button at the end inviting you to share the link on social media. The result is that your poor judgment ends up as part of your Facebook news feed, and therefore on the feeds of all your friends as well.
My feed in particular tends to collect a lot of quizzes. “Which 70’s punk rock band are you?” “Which Shakespeare character are you?” “Which Disney Princess are you?” Some of these quizzes may have been marginally interesting curiosities at one point, but the list of meaningful quiz topics was exhausted long ago. And so it was one day in late November that the following quiz appeared on my Facebook feed.
You would be hard-pressed to think up a lamer quiz topic than this (although a cursory web search will uncover a bunch of equally pathetic ones). Blood started pounding in my head, and I knew this could not stand. I was going to have to act. But rather than just post a long rambling rant, I felt I had to put more effort into it. To really communicate my point, I was going to have to show by example. So I fired up my graphics program and assembled this.
Okay, I thought. A good first effort. But there’s more potential here. Let me see how inane I can get.
This gave me a certain degree of satisfaction, but later in the day I felt I could take it a bit further. What about a quiz that was offensive and socially irresponsible?
Finally, I came up with one more quiz graphic to complete the series and drive the point home. I thought long and hard about the most effective way to shame a behavior, and then it hit me. Just associate it with Andy Dick.
I will admit to being a scold, but the fact is, even though the occasional quiz still turns up on my Facebook feed, I haven’t seen any flagrantly stupid ones since venting my spleen. Not that anyone has thanked me, but as all parents know, guiding others to good behavior is its own reward.