“Don’t Like Clickbait? Don’t Click” Analysis
Zoey Aldridge (Junior)
In the TED Talk “Don’t Like Clickbait? Don’t Click,” which was given in July 2014 by Sally Kohn, she argues that the public needs to change what they click and give their attention to because it feeds impulses and encourages more of those same injustices they are against. Kohn brings attention to the fact that not everything on the internet is pretty, but instead, there are unhealthy, negative debates and attacks on others. She points out that clicking on a piece of media is not private, as it makes more media through deciding what goes viral. Kohn explains how “algorithms” decide what gets more attention based on what everyone has clicked on. Then, Kohn indicates that no one can say that the country is “incivil” if they are feeding into those subjects they despise through clicking on media about those subjects. She disagrees that it has to be this way, expressing that society can change the way the media attacks others and talks about disagreeable subjects. She states that we can do this simply by speaking out when someone is mistreated and avoiding the “clickbait” that talks about the subjects that the public knows are wrong. Finally, Kohn states that if the public wants the world to change, they need to shape the world they wish to have by clicking on the things that foster that ideal world (0:00-4:27).
This TED Talk is directed to convince all of those who use social media, which is a large portion of society, to change the way they click. Sally Kohn, the speaker for this Ted Talk, opens with an example, a story of a group of white guys and black women that switched their Twitter avatars, drawing the audience in with a story that ties into points she makes later. This is because when the Twitter avatars were switched, the women got treated more nicely online and the men noticed that they were getting called names and going through online abuse, which is a topic Kohn mentions a few times later (0:04-0:27). This works for persuasion through introducing her argument in a way that is easy to explain, further making sure that the audience responds to further proof of her argument later on. Kohn also explains after her story that those of minority groups are more likely to go through “personal attacks” (0:48-1:00). She has experience and credibility in this regard, as her homosexuality has caused her to be ridiculed online (1:00-1:17).
Kohn uses logos by explaining that although we may think that browsing the web is a “private act of consuming media,” it is not due to the fact that everything we click and post is making more media (1:58-2:16). She also mentions that “three out of five Americans think we have a major incivility problem in our country right now,” but that three of those same people are most likely clicking on the same garbage that feeds into what society says they hate (2:34-2:50). This logos is effective because Kohn goes through the steps and all the reasons why browsing the web is public, as well as calling the public out for saying the country has an issue while feeding into that same issue. These two statements are hard to argue with, as they are both logical and backed up by the experiences the audience has likely had online, hence why it is such effective logos. Finally, Kohn begins to conclude her speech through pathos, catering to the emotions of the audience by explaining that everyone can make a difference through being a “good person,” by drowning “out the negative with the positive,” and by no longer clicking on the things we hate (3:06-4:00). Kohn explains this more by stating, “Clicking on a train wreck just pours gasoline on it. It makes it worse, the fire spreads. Our whole culture gets burned” (4:00-4:07). She concludes her speech by telling the audience to click more responsibly in order to get the world they want (4:08-4:22). This is persuasive because it can either leave the audience feeling empowered or guilty through the effective use of pathos. When Kohn explains that the audience can make a difference and not just continue to let these things happen, feelings of guilt that they had not done something sooner and empowerment that they can start this change now can be felt, further making her argument more persuasive. Throughout this TED Talk, Sally Kohn speaks to the audience with an informative tone, sounding more authoritative and serious when she needs to be while still cracking jokes every so often to keep the audience entertained. This tone is effective because it makes her sound more credible with the level of authority she speaks with, while her funny moments alert the audience and renew their attention to her. During her speech, it can also be seen that she continues to repeat this point of how important our clicks are, driving home the point that what the public gives their attention to shapes society.
I found this TED Talk quite persuasive, however, there was a part of the speech I found more persuasive than the rest as well as a part of the speech that I did not find persuasive enough. To me, the middle of the speech was the most persuasive, around one minute to three minutes in, due to its good use of ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos can be seen through Kohn’s understanding that the internet can be an awful place as well as her evidence that she has witnessed this firsthand through saying, “In fact, just as I was writing this talk, I found a Twitter account called @SallyKohnSucks” (1:00-1:07). This lets me know that she is well-informed on this topic as well as making it known to me that she understands bad things happen on the internet. In this section of the TED Talk, Kohn also uses pathos by explaining that bad things are said about minorities, making me empathize with those people based on my own unpleasant experiences on the internet. Kohn then uses that emotion I have later when she says that a lot of Americans think that there is “a major incivility problem in our country,” but that those people do not really have any room to talk because it is likely that those same people “are clicking on that same insult-oriented, rumor-mongering trash that feeds the nastiest impulses in our society” (2:35-2:50). This, in turn, makes me feel guilty for any time that I have knowingly clicked on something even though I disagreed with it. During this section of the speech, logos are also used, which I think are the most persuasive thing about this TED Talk. This is because Kohn does an excellent job of explaining that even though it may seem like the rest of the public and I are “consuming media” privately, we are not because everything we click on or post adds to the media and gives the topic at hand more publicity (1:58-2:33). Kohn’s use of logic really spoke to me. Her explanation of common misunderstandings was really persuasive. Besides her good use of logos, I also found myself responding to her use of ethos and pathos, seeing her credibility from her experiences as well as experiencing those emotions she was trying to evoke through her use of pathos. That is why I found this part of the speech the most persuasive. However, the section of the speech I found the least persuasive was the very beginning up to the part where Kohn stated that she and the audience, unlike five-year-olds, are aware of the ugliness of the internet (0:03-0:42). I understand that part of the reason this is not persuasive is because it is the introduction to the argument. Still, I believe that there should have been at least a little more persuasion than rehashing stories and talking about what a five-year-old can find on the internet.
Persuasive writing, and therefore speaking, is a balance between information and persuasion, or, more specifically, writers should avoid using too much background information or stories to lead up to their persuasion through evidence and audience appeals. At least some background information is essential, and stories can be needed to draw in the audience, but one should avoid using too much of it unless they are going to sprinkle evidence or pathos, logos, or ethos for their argument throughout it. At least one of those four things should always be present during persuasive writing to further persuade the audience to agree with the writer’s claims, hence why it is called persuasive writing. If means of persuasion are tossed aside for the purpose of providing the audience with a lot of background stories and information, then there is too much energy being spent on the background. On the other hand, a successful persuasive text should have successful use and balance of ethos, pathos, and logos to appeal to the audience. Using ethos, pathos, and logos effectively will greatly increase the probability of the audience to listen as well as draw them to agree with the argument being made. More specifically, an effective use of ethos, pathos, and logos is making an effort to appeal to the audience, without going too far or throwing out morals in order to manipulate the audience.
Kohn, Sally. “Don’t like Clickbait? Don’t Click.” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, 2014, https://www.ted.com/talks/sally_kohn_don_t_like_clickbait_don_t_click.
Biography: My name is Zoey Aldridge, and I’m a junior. I had previously been homeschooled, but I came to Early College Academy, a high school partnered with Aims because I was searching for something new. I was searching for new opportunities and new challenges. ECA and its Aims courses have done just that. I now have the opportunity to get my Associate of Arts degree by the time I graduate high school, and I have the various challenges that come with the college courses. ECA also gives me the opportunity to express myself through some of my hobbies, two of which are photography and writing. These two hobbies mean a lot to me, as they have helped me through tough times and been a constructive way to spend my time during quarantine. Photography is a more recent hobby, as I really got into it during the winter of 2019. I had taken pictures before, but not enough to consider it a hobby of mine. I had just gotten a cellphone that year which provided a better way to take photos. I went on a trip with my family for Christmas and took lots of photos while traveling. I started experimenting more with different angles and techniques, quickly growing to like photography even more. As for writing, it has always been a part of me ever since I first learned how to write. I have always used writing as a way to express myself, whether in nonfiction, fiction, or other writing forms.