We’ve all been there. We’ve all fought the urge to read that juicy tabloid, and we’ve all clicked that scathing headline regarding the celebrity we claimed not to care about.
While we may know that these sources and stories aren’t always reputable, it doesn’t make a difference: it’s human nature to want to know more.
Most social media users have likely heard the term “clickbait,” and for those who haven’t, its goal is evident by its title.
Clickbait is sensationalized content created with the sheer intention of getting “clicks,” regardless of reliability or accuracy. Headlines designed to bait us.
One would assume that being aware of such attention-grabbing tactics would make us more skeptical of them, yet in a constant cycle of scrolling, swiping and clicking, social media gets repetitive, and exciting content stands out.
In today’s internet landscape, views are currency. Creators want clicks and are willing to do anything possible to get them.
As it’s said, all press is good press.
Take Andrew Tate, for example.
The former kickboxer has made pretty much every egregious statement one could think of, from publicly announcing that women are the “property” of their male significant others to claiming that one male giving CPR to another male is “homosexual.”
Given his track record, it’s hard to deny that Tate is sexist, homophobic and bigoted. There is even viral footage of him hitting a woman.
Despite his despicable behavior and his recent ban from nearly every social media platform, his name continues to run rampant in internet conversation. People can’t seem to get enough of the trending topic and are eager to watch him argue his way through videos and comment sections.
Because we’re naturally drawn to drama.
We’re innately interested in controversy and intrigued by “problematic” individuals. Reading about and watching these polarizing influencers gives us an escape from our own, sometimes boring, routines.
We gravitate toward outrageous content that stands out to us, even if we don’t agree with it. It’s a guilty pleasure.
Podcast hosts and YouTubers often feature controversial individuals on their shows, questioning their opinions, character and previous actions.
They frame these discussions with a mission to “knock some sense” into the problematic guests. As if one conversation, filmed and publicized, can make someone a good person.
But is the goal really to enact change? Or do they just want views?
In reality, these hosts are only giving these polarizing individuals more of a platform to voice their harmful opinions. And we are contributing to the cycle by watching it.
Many of us similarly take to social media to express our reactions to controversies, whether we are attempting to raise awareness or voicing our disapproval.
Though we may like to believe we are making a difference by publicly expressing our disgust, we are only providing another platform for these figures to spread their message.
By rewarding the most extreme and polarizing celebrities with more fame, we are confirming the belief that scandal sells. Continuing to give them the attention that they crave will likely lead them to seek even more and to act even more outrageous to get it.
And these tendencies will not only impact current social media users but can affect future generations, as well.
As the internet becomes increasingly flooded with exceedingly young audiences, impressionistic viewers may be led to believe that the key to success is saying any inflammatory thing that comes to their minds.
Some of those viewers will inevitably try their hand at becoming influencers themselves, renewing the outrage cycle once again.
Though it may be beneficial to acknowledge this problem, there are few tangible solutions. After all, here we are taking the time and energy to write yet another article about these sensational internet personalities.
So, for now, we’ll probably continue grabbing those magazines, and we’ll keep pressing those flashy links. And until we change our own mentality, we can expect that influencers will continue to cater toward our love of scandal, and will become even more outrageous in the process.