Clickbait is so common on the internet that sometimes I feel that a big chunk of content creators would go bankrupt if it weren’t for it.
They’re all pretty much the same.
“PRANK GONE WRONG – ALMOST DIED”
“10 FACTS YOU WON’T BELIEVE ARE TRUE”
I almost make it a point to avoid these videos/articles. It’s so obviously clickbait that I don’t even want to give them the traffic that I know they’re so desperately chasing after.
However, some of them are much more subtle than that.
One common type of content that I’ve been tricked into are the short cooking clips. You see these all over Facebook and YouTube, and if you haven’t seen them before, they typically go like this.
They always feature some cooking idea that no one has ever thought about before, for example, freezing ice cream and whipping it up to become cake batter, or cooking brownies straight inside the bag. Sometimes they also have these “shortcuts” to cooking, for example something that typically requires baking, they might find a workaround that only requires a microwave.
I’m going to be honest, the first couple times I saw these videos, I thought they were interesting and unique, and also incredibly creative. Sometimes the videos feature ideas that save quite a bit of time & materials, or even make new foods from scratch.
But as I watched some more videos, something just didn’t seem right. It first began with the jump cuts, ones that I didn’t notice at first, but increasingly became more noticeable the more I watched.
The worst one I watched was a ‘lifehack’ where you could microwave a stalk of corn and get popcorn. That one I knew for sure was wrong – you can’t possibly expect to make popcorn from heating up corn on the cob. In case you need any confirmation, just a week before, I had done exactly that; there was some corn in the fridge, so I put it in the microwave to heat up. Surprise! Warm corn, like the other 100 times I’ve done it before. This was so absurd I actually laughed when I saw the video.
But that got me thinking, how many more of these so-called ‘life hacks’ actually work?
In fact, I was looking up that exact video when I came across her channel.
While her channel also focuses on legit cooking tutorials (for example a tutorial on how to make a sugar bowl), it’s her debunking videos that have gotten me hooked.
She’s a food scientist, so she knows quite a bit about what works and doesn’t work, what goes together and what doesn’t. Her debunking series typically feature her commentary and analysis of some of those short viral “cooking” videos. The best part is when she also tries some of the videos herself and shows viewers what the outcome would be if you really followed the recipe to a tee. And if you watched some of her videos, you would know that many of those so-called ‘hacks’ weren’t hacks at all, but more like tricks.
The funniest one was the one with the melted gummy bears dessert. In case you missed it, the lifehack video took a bunch of them and melted them down to create this kind of Jell-O dessert. That obviously doesn’t work (think about the consistency of gummy bears when they are solid!), and yet they chose to do it that way. Why not just do it with Jell-O the right way?
Because that wouldn’t get the clicks of course. By doing it with such an unexpected food, people are more willing to like, share, and generally react in a way that encourages the algorithm to recommend the video to more people.
That’s part of the problem sometimes, is that people just aren’t willing to spend time to watch videos that have substance, and instead chase after what the next thing will be.
Hopefully watching Ann will remind you that sometimes not everything on the internet is exactly what it seems, and maybe you’ll spend your time supporting the content creators that deserve the attention.
Link to channel here.