The Internet is a trap, and we are its prey. We know this. Or, we should know this.
I know that certain sites feed on my thirst for gift cards (and to a lesser extent, bragging rights) in order to sell my consumer information. Duh. This game has been going on before the land of 1s and 0s.
Back then, we all knew when your dad signs up to win a free shed at the Canfield Fair that your house will be inundated with sales calls until next year's fair - and then it's hot tubs. You also knew your mom would be ticked.
But I can't fault these tactics - our consumer data is valuable, and most of us are only human when a gift card or a crisp dollar is dangled in front of our nose. I gladly took the Nielsen survey - whatever they glean from my affection for screamy restaurant makeover shows is no skin off my teeth.
And Facebook, sweet Facebook. We know your algorithms of pure witchery can read our minds and know whether we long for marriage, a new job, or a refreshing smoothie from Starbucks.
But what cost social networking? So what they know I ordered a pizza from Dominos online. I can resist the following weeks of flashing pizza banners and advertisements in my face after my one-time online pizza dalliance.
If I browse for sandals, Facebook will know; them alerting me to the further existence of sandals is no biggie. You may even stumble upon the occasional coupon or useful link. I will endure and ignore a few blinky popups and thinly veiled sponsored posts for fifty cents off Clif Bars.
But consumer data is a necessary annoyance. We need to buy stuff on occasion, and have to wade into the shark-infested Web waters.
We, however, cannot make excuses for wading further into the depths of those tempting, addictive, and wholly unnecessary hungry toothy beasts known as listicles. Surveys. Timewasters that you could go your whole life without acknowledging until you see it scroll past, then then you just HAVE to know which "Mad Men" character you are.
Listicles are a cunning sort. They take the things we love best - music, TV, movies, pizza, useless rankings, pointless diagnosis, and of course one's self - and tumble them into clickbait and webhits. Whether it's an outright quiz-and-list feed site, or a quasi-respectable site posing as hard news but littered with these traps, they are becoming the go-to for any site - news or otherwise - scrounging for traffic.
Does compiling a list of 50 pizzas for 50 states lessen the authority of Zagat? Does HuffPost luring you in with the promise of the secrets of the latest miracle fruit take away from a subsequent story about importanty political stuff? How does this much pizza exist in the world?
For the sake of preserving integrity in journalism, and to prevent the further devolution of the Internet into a puddle of Disney princesses and online degree scams, resist the next survey, list or slideshow that will not enrich your mind or give you coupons. Give more click power to stories that make a difference. Try a week of listicle-free browsing. While it may be cool for a picture of pizza to someday be elected president, we all know that's probably not best.
What country / Muppet / vegetable are you? Take the quiz at firstname.lastname@example.org.