Is there any doubt that social media and the internet have transformed our culture? We think and communicate in sound bytes, texts, and tweets and, as a result, we damage communication. And some times in the quest to get our message across as teachers, coaches, and parents, we may stretch the truth or disguise the truth to draw attention to our message – even with good intentions! Creative titling meant to draw “clicks” by distorting the truth is called “click-bait.”
I became familiar with the idea of “click-bait” in the Christian community after taking my son to see Chris Pratt in Jurassic World. In the weeks prior to the premier, internet references were being made suggesting that Pratt would soon be battling the Hollywood elite with his statements about his faith (see this article from Faithit.com). Seems harmless, right? Good for Chris Pratt, right? But when you look at it closely, the story came from comments made by Pratt over a year ago as he and his wife dealt with the complicated birth of their son. While there are many things to admire and applaud in what we see in Chris Pratt, like all of us, his faith walk is his own – even though many Christians eagerly look to plug him in as another one on “our side.” Scott Bedgood does a wonderful job explaining it in his article on RelevantMagazine.com.
The phenomenon of “click-bait” is creeping into other areas of life as well, so let’s look closer at some examples of its effects in basketball, life, and the Church. You can draw your own conclusions, but I think it’s helpful to be aware of the trend.
BASKETBALL – Capturing Attention
Without realizing it, I run narrowly close to using “click-bait” all the time. As a writer, I want to draw as many readers as I can and I am constantly aware of using the right names and the right words to attract more people like you to check out these articles. In the same way as I research material from a variety of basketball sources, the titles and keywords often determine if I’m going to click and read more. And as a coach, I often find I need to capture the attention of our players with a new term or a new concept or a new set play. I’m constantly looking for ways to get players to “click” on the message. Communication breaks down, though, if there’s no substance behind the bait. There has to be specific connections and purpose beyond the click-bait. Unfortunately, we are now living a world where too many of us tune things out or delete the message before we even consider it. That includes the players of today. Which means the coaches of today have to keep up with how communication works. That’s why I glean ideas from communicators like John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Billy Donovan, and Buzz Williams, even if their coaching philosophies differ from mine.
I’ve mulled over this concept for a while and my first reaction was to go on a middle-age rant about the youth of today and how my generation was so much better at focusing in on the messages of our coaches back in the day. But as I read John Eisenberg’s That First Season, a look back at Vince Lombardi’s first season coaching the Green Bay Packers, I realized that players were tuning him in and out as well. In fact they tuned him out a lot. The beauty of it though, is that Lombardi had no need for “click-bait.” He simply spoke the truth, often emphatically, and developed trust with his players by building personal relationships.
Coaching today is still about building relationships, but certainly we have to adjust. For college coaches, that begins with recruiting and why I find Dan Tudor’s work at Tudor Collegiate Strategies helpful in navigating technology and communicating with this generation of recruits. For example, Jeremy Tiers’ article Tips to Enhance Your Social Media Connection With Prospects is helpful in steering clear of the trap of “click-bait.”
LIFE – The Effects of Technology
Click-bait is just one more product of technology that makes the world of my kids so different from that of my youth. As parents of two teens and a twenty-something, my wife and I often feel helpless as technology sucks our kids into habits, behaviors, and social challenges we never had to face. It’s important for parents and also for today’s young people to understand how technology changes us. We click on and click off in fractions of a second. I watch our youngest click-through options with his X-Box controller and I can barely keep up. That affects you! Click-bait draws us in, whether it’s true or not and the effects of having endless choices at the click of a mouse has changed our perspective. Again, I’m not complaining. I just encourage each of us, my kids included, to keep our eyes open about how the culture around us influences us. Focus on the Family had a wonderful interview with Dr. Katherine Koch about her book, Screens and Teens: Connecting With Our Kids in a Wireless World, which takes a closer look at these influences. Listen to it or read the transcript here.
FAITH – No Click-bait Required
The Church and the followers of Jesus are not immune to click-bait either. The modern church has jumped in whole hog with technology, social media, and all forms of marketing to attract people to the Gospel message. At times, we even go too far. The internet is filled with “Christian” websites baiting people to click with provocative titles. After Golden State won the NBA title, Christian websites proudly echoed Finals MVP Andre Iguodala’s mention of how many of his teammates were active in the Warriors’ players’ chapel program (here’s one of the better ones on Christiantoday.com). I loved it, but there were a few mentions with some shaky motives; again, just trying to keep a running score of Christians on our side and not exploring the depth and growth experienced by many athletes who take time to grow in their faith through sharing with fellow athletes.
Some times, in our rush to spread our message, we communicate in headlines and gimmicks, rather than simply presenting and explaining the truth of God’s word.
“Every word of God is flawless;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Do not add to his words,
or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6)