For Facebook, Curiosity Wins Out

Facebook has altered the look and feel of its trending topics, eliminating the human curators and the description of the topic.

Now, all that exists is a proper name or subject and how many people are talking about it. It has put Facebook squarely into the manufacture of clickbait, the dreaded publishing tactic that Facebook itself spent plenty of effort trying to delegitimize. 

Facebook, of course, eliminated the human editors because of allegations of political bias, acting favorably towards liberal topics, subjects, and articles. By removing the humans, it removed the ability to write descriptions for the topics. So, now we’re left with scant information, but loads of curiosity.

While internet culture has not agreed upon a common definition of clickbait*, many point towards its exploitation of the curiosity gap, which explains the phenomenon when a headline gives you just enough information to want to click on the link to read the article. Clickbait occurs when the article fails to live up to the promise of the headline.

Facebook has taken this into a new direction. There’s no headline, so perhaps it’s not technically clickbait. But there’s also no context as to why the person is trending (which, I guess, has always been the case with Twitter’s trending topics). If it’s a celebrity, maybe he or she died, or maybe he or she released a new fragrance. 

It will lead to daily doses of disappointment, something that Facebook fought so hard against for so long. 

* Is this very headline clickbait? Maybe!

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