In the past few years, Facebook introduced the trending feature on their users’ dashboards. The most popular articles appear to the right of the dashboard whenever people log in to their accounts. Since then, Facebook has tried to control what stories people are reading.

Along with the introduction of the trending feature, Facebook users began sharing new kinds of articles. The articles, from the likes of Buzzfeed, Upworthy, Thought Catalog and the Huffington Post, all had one thing in common. The stories were considered clickbait.

As twenty-somethings, we’ve most likely shared clickbait without realizing it. In simple terms, clickbait is content that uses sensational headlines to encourage more clicks. Most of the time, the sites seek out more hits to satisfy the advertisers who purchased banners on the page. The headlines try to pique the curiosity of readers, getting them to read without providing the quality of a news story. 

Examples of clickbait include “5 Things Every Person Must Learn in Their Twenties” or “You’ll Never Believe Why These Two Celebrities Got Into a Fight.” Whenever we see call outs or lists in headlines, we’re most likely seeing clickbait.

Not all clickbait stories can be to blame. Journalists are taught to write engaging headlines for readers. However, when sensational headlines promise miracle stories or rules that apply to large groups of people, they should probably be avoided. Plenty of clickbait articles skip accuracy or quality in favor of higher readership.

With the rise of clickbait articles, Facebook has promised to crack down on the problem. They plan to modify each users’ dashboard according to how often they read clickbait and whether they’re returning users. The less a person shares clickbait, the less likely they’ll see it in their feed. Although Facebook promises to ameloriate the issue, clickbait will continue to thrive on social media.

So how can millenials know when they’re looking at clickbait? They can follow these general guidelines to determine whether an article is really worth reading. 

The headline contains over-the-top phrases like “You’ll Never Believe” and “This Amazing Thing.”

It comes from Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed has its own news section, but those articles are rarely found on our Facebook dashboard. Instead, people mostly share lists and quizzes.

The headline makes some kind of promise or offer to the reader. Real news stories would never do that.

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