What Is Clickbait? (Check All that Apply)
This chapter argues that clickbait, like so many examples of copious exchange, has roots in the early modern period. When clickbait is discussed in twenty-first-century terms, it is usually as a trick or trap, an undignified, undignifiable distraction. In Renaissance literature, characters can indeed be said to take the clickbait when they find themselves baited into acts of indignity; but in the process they find ways to articulate—eloquently and copiously—a conclusion simultaneously lofty and deflating: all human acts are acts of indignity. To arrive at what this chapter introduces as the clickbait ethos is to arrive at this place of paradox; it is to take a leap—intellectual, romantic, spiritual, what you will—that is also a pratfall. It is to react to the mundane or inane as if it is complex, secret, even miraculous. It is to adopt the tagline of a clickbait-generating twenty-first-century website: all content deserves to go viral.