Down the Clickhole: The allure of clickbait news

By Josie Abugov


On most days, when my eighth period class ends, I head as quickly as I can to the senior lot and zip through the 818 until I get home. I immediately change into pajamas and make myself an iced coffee. I am exhausted. Over it. It’s probably only 3 p.m. at this point. I’ve done zero exercise in the past month, but I act as if I’ve completed my third marathon of the day.

Crawling into bed, my iced coffee in one hand, my phone in the other, I shamelessly scour through Clickhole’s Instagram page, the social media equivalent of both the Rocky Horror Picture Show and a glass of lemonade.

Clickhole, the Onion’s satirical website and social media page that spoofs prominent clickbait sites, is a deep void of endless and addictive posts.

The site launched in 2014, when The Onion stopped publishing print issues and shifted its focus entirely to web. At first glance, Clickhole humor seems bizarre and illogical. Quotes that make no sense. Out of context faux clickbait headlines. A black hole of meaninglessness. People seem to either love Clickhole or simply not get it.

For those who do love it, Clickhole serves as this odd internet cult favorite. Consistent in its bizarre, dry humor, the style of its content is predictable.Getting lost in the maze of Clickhole is easier than prematurely stopping a juice cleanse.

But under the surface, there is undeniable intelligence and social commentary weaved into their ludicrous headlines. This past May, Clickhole launched Patriothole, which satirizes online conservative news outlets. Headlines such as, “Steve Bannon Has Completed His Yearlong Plan to Become Increasingly Irrelevant Before Eventually Getting Fired” and “Wasting Taxpayer Money? The White House Reportedly Spends $7.99 A Month On A Free Hulu Trial Obama Forgot to Cancel” run on Clickhole's website.

When Clickhole gets political, it often replaces its nonsensical humor with something legitimately clever and illuminating about society. Sadly, as political unrest and confusion increases nationally, I've seen more and more legitimate headlines that sound like they belong on Clickhole.

On a typical day, I feel not only academically overwhelmed, but politically overwhelmed. A lot of times, my CNN notifications make me want to either cry, take an anxiety nap or just generally yell. While I believe wholeheartedly that tuning out the news in response to feeling inundated with information isn't the right response, I also understand this reaction. With each news cycle more troubling than the next, we are living in uneasy and exhausting times.

Amid constant sensationalism and societal unrest, Clickhole and The Onion often provide relevant social commentary through satire and humor. As the nation’s political environment becomes increasingly polarized and unethical behavior abounds in the highest positions of power, these satirical online outlets illuminate the hypocrisy and ridiculousness of events in our country and the white house. Following Hurricane Maria, an Onion headline read, “Trump Administration Sends 30 Million Nothing to Puerto Rico Victims.” Following the Las Vegas shooting, The Onion headline read, “‘No way to prevent this' says only nation where this regularly happens.“

45 minutes later, I dramatically crawl out of bed. My empty mason jar of used-to-be iced coffee sits on my bedside table. Clickhole’s Instagram page is displayed on my phone screen. I watch a Clickhole video about a dog. I get a terrifying New York Times notification. As I do my homework in the evening, I wonder why the world is grieving.

Panorama Magazine