Beware of Click Bait

A line from the 1934 Babes in Toyland came to mind recently: “Big bait catches big rat!” It’s a quote by the villain, Barnaby, after he successfully traps the two hapless heroes, Laurel & Hardy.

Click BaitI’m reminded of that line almost every time I scroll through my social media feeds. You’ve probably seen them on your social media, too.

Posts that include a link and a description designed to reel us in:

  • Shocker: “You’ll never believe what she did!”
  • Righteous anger: “Classmates said she’s ugly. Click *like* to prove them wrong!”
  • Tugs on our heart strings: “Help him get 1 million *likes* before he dies.”
  • Too-good-to-be-true: “$75. Publix coupon off an $80. Purchase!”

These posts are called click bait because they’re designed as attractive bait to hook us into clicking on the link, taking us to another website. The sites may be designed to harvest names and email or Facebook addresses. Or the websites are peppered with ads from companies that pay for every click. Hence the name, click bait.

Click bait posts are deliberate efforts to manipulate and maneuver readers. Anything to cause us to click through to the desired site…which reminds me of another famous quote: “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV).

Temptation has been around long before the Internet. Its “hook” changes for each person and with each situation.

  • Some of us are attracted to shocking or provocative images.
  • Others justify anger and unforgiveness: “She deserves it for what she did!”
  • Some easily fall prey to self-pity: “It’s not my fault I was tempted!”
  • Still others think they can play with fire and not get burned: “One time won’t hurt.”

hook & baitThe Bible reminds us that “each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed” (James 1:14 NIV). The Greek word for “enticed” is actually a fishing term that means to catch with bait.

So what entices you, not just on the Internet, but in daily life, too? Where are you and I most susceptible to click bait…and what will we do to recognize that the bait is attached to a hook?

The next time you’re tempted to click, pause. Ask yourself if you’re being set up to be reeled in…either virtually or in real life. Then step away from the bait!


 
The Times They are A-Changin’

The times they are a-changin’ and technology is developing faster than…

            …the speed of light?

Sometimes it feels like it.

            …our ability to comfortably keep up?

                        Probably, at least for most of us over the age of 50.

            …our ability to evaluate it from moral and ethical perspectives?

                        Definitely.

timeTechnological developments can be as innocuous as the recent announcement that VCRs are no longer being manufactured. The last new VCR left a manufacturing plant in Japan a few weeks ago. This is not a huge deal compared to other events in our world. Still, it’s the end of yet another era…and a reminder that technology marches on.

Remember when VCRs hit the market back in the 70s? The ability to record programs for later viewing initiated a new level of freedom of entertainment. Although, in retrospect, the purpose of the VCR was a bit ironic. As Frank Navasky said in You’ve Got Mail,

“The whole idea of a VCR is that it makes it possible for you to tape what’s on television while you’re out of the house. But the whole point of being out of the house is so you can miss what’s on television.”

While the benefits—or drawbacks—of some technology are obvious, other technological breakthroughs carry us into the quicksand of moral relativism. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do it. Whether dropping a nuclear bomb or cloning individual human cells, the consequences have outpaced our ability to evaluate the ethical fallout…which leads us to yet another problem.

Even if we could keep up with the moral and ethical considerations of every technological achievement, what standard would we use? Our culture has rejected our Judeo-Christian heritage. Absolute standards of right and wrong have become antiquated labels left over from a less “enlightened” age.

One might say I’m overreaching in a successful imitation of Chicken Little. Watching an outdated piece of technology slip from its technological pinnacle isn’t enough justification to shout, “the sky is falling!” After all, an obsolete VCR is a far cry from the massive death toll of a single atom bomb or the technological advance of genetic testing.

Still it’s a reminder that the times they are a-changin’. As technology changes with them, we need to ensure our moral standards aren’t left behind in the dust.

For example, according to ABC news:

“An estimated 92 percent of all women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose to terminate their pregnancies, according to research reviewed by Dr. Brian Skotko, a pediatric geneticist at Children’s Hospital Boston.”

Let that sink in. 92% percent of women. Which means 92% of babies. Babies. When we lose our moral compass, our own convenience becomes an idol—elevated to the status of a god. And that is dangerous.

Technology may not be inherently moral or immoral. But how we use technological advances can indeed be moral or immoral. The choice is ours…mine and yours.

Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.


 
The More Things Change…

The more things change…

You know how to finish that statement, don’t you?

“The more things change, the more they remain the same.”

Bear with me as I take an ever-so-brief detour through the history of writing. You’ll understand why in a moment or two…

Written communication began with symbols. These symbols, known as proto-writing, were not a word-for-word record of verbal communication. Rather, they were a series of symbols to represent simple nouns, verbs, ideas, or emotions. You may recall taking a history class where you studied photos of ancient cave drawings. Those crude pictures—pictographic hieroglyphics—evolved into cuneiform—symbols based on wedge shapes.

Eventually, alphabets and writing systems developed to record communication word-for-word. Alphabets formed words. Words formed sentences. Sentences were grouped into paragraphs. The point was to accurately represent oral communication. Handwriting developed into an art form and calligraphy flourished.

So why this history lesson now? Because, as the title of this post declares, the more things change, the more they do indeed remain the same.

Think about the changes in written communications today. Cursive handwriting is no longer taught in major school systems. The practice of texting has devolved words and sentences into collections of letters and numbers. For example, “see you later” has become “c u l8r.”

If that isn’t bad enough, our social media communications are increasingly bereft of words. Instead, they’re filled with smiley faces and hearts, thumbs-up, and thumbs-down. Emoticons picturing facial expressions. Emoji depicting everything from shoes to houses. No longer do we carefully search for the precise word to convey our thoughts and emotions. Now we string together a group of emoticons and emojis and call it communication. After thousands of years, we’ve advanced – or regressed – to cave drawings.

Emojis

Please don’t get me wrong. I use emoticons and emojis in my own social media posts. Still, let’s remember the importance of words. Precise words. The right word makes a huge difference in conveying ideas and emotions. Consider a word as general as walk. Good communicators won’t be content with walk. They will search for a word that conveys exactly what they are trying to communicate. They will search out words such as trudge, hike, stroll, march, saunter, stride, amble, trek, plod, dawdle, roam, tramp, tromp, slog, travel, stomp, sashay, glide, troop, wander, ramble, promenade, or traipse. Precise words help us communicate clearly.

Most of all, if we give up our appreciation for choosing particular words to convey specific meanings, we’ll fail to grasp the precision of God’s Word. For thousands of years, the Bible has described God’s nature and relationship with humanity in precise language. God values specific communication. There’s a reason Jesus is called the living Word. An emoticon or emoji isn’t enough to communicate all that He is and all that He did…and still does.

We need words for that. A smiley face just won’t do it.  🙂

What do you think?


 
What Kind of Choice?

It used to be in the realm of science fiction. Not anymore. Designer babies are one step closer to reality.

A U.S. company, 23andMe, has received a patent for a process that could be used to choose babies selected on the basis of genes that will increase the probability of certain physical attributes. Of course, the elimination of disorders and diseases is also touted as a benefit. For now, the company promotes the tool as, as they say, “a fun way to look at such things as what eye color their child might have or if their child will be able to perceive bitter taste or be lactose tolerant.”Biotechnology If the phrase “slippery slope” applies anywhere, it applies here. It’s a short step from playing a game to making choices that affect real life.

The word choice has been closely associated with the subject of babies in our nation. “Pro-choice” advocates espouse the right of women to choose to take the life of their baby before the baby is born. Choosing the traits of the baby they decide to keep is nothing by comparison.

But what are we choosing? Our culture moves from fad to fad. Names fall in and out of favor from year to year and generation to generation. Will the same thing happen with hair color? Eye color? Short or tall people? Isn’t that what the Third Reich attempted? Under a despicable dictator, a program was initiated to create a blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan race. A race free of anything that could be called a defect.

So what will happen when our culture moves from playing a game to making “harmless” choices about eye color to finally eliminating any potential for less-than-perfect babies?

Consider these quotes:

“You measure the degree of civilization of a society by how it treats its weakest members.” ~ Winston Churchill

“The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” ~ Hubert H. Humphrey

If we eliminate babies with physical limitations—if we even consider their elimination—what does this say about our society? Our compassion? Will the elimination of the elderly be next? Will we deny care to those who are born with diseases or “defects”?

Technology may provide the ability to do something, but morality determines if we should do it. Our society has already crossed that line with abortions. The sad thing is that anything else seems tame once our culture has determined that killing babies is acceptable.

I recently attended a fundraiser for our local crisis pregnancy center. Babies are dying before they can take their first breath outside the womb. Mothers and fathers learn—too late—the horror of what they’ve done, and then live with crippling regret. But there are those who are working on the front lines to save lives. One mother at a time. One father at a time. One baby at a time. Because, despite what our culture says, it’s the right thing to do.

Photo courtesy of Nancy DeMott

Photo courtesy of Nancy DeMott

Martin Niemöller, a German theologian and pastor, said this about the Third Reich—words quoted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

First They Came

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The choice is not about eye or hair color. It’s about life. Period.
Speak up for the babies. For the parents. For our nation.
If we don’t, someday, there will be no one to speak up for us.


 
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