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Ten ways to fool you into reading online lists

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Youtube Video

Sex sex sex, that’s all we think about, apparently.

I think I read somewhere that men think about sex every seven seconds. But then you shouldn’t believe everything you read because a person could hardly concentrate on (SEX) matters on a day-to-day basis if this was the case and you would turn into a (SEX) machine that’s easily influenced by advertisers and malicious (SEX) criminals trying to rule your mind with naughty (SEX) sex.

Manipulating minds with spurious stories about rubbing rudies has long been a feature of internet chat. Even to this day, there are probably some individuals out there now approaching middle age who will be crushingly disappointed when I tell them that their teenage belief that there was a secret code to remove Lara Croft’s clothes was nothing but pure fancy.

Fanciful but never likely, let’s be honest. So why would anyone, having received a modern Western education and enjoying a lifestyle wealthy enough to grant computer access, be so easily suckered into such nonsense? Well, it’s sex, isn’t it? Sure, sex is distracting, but in the case of computer users, the merest hint of tickling those tightly packed crotch nerve-endings is enough to drain away our IQs in an instant.

Psychologists have written about this phenomenon for years, but I lay part of the blame on William Gibson’s Neuromancer for raising unrealistic expectations among the fresh tech generation of the 1980s.

Phwooar... Is it the blank stare or her razor-sharp retractable claws that
make Neuromancer's Molly so appealing?

Yes it’s just a novel, but is a super-hot ninja babe with surgically implanted sunglasses, even in anyone’s wildest dreams, going to cop off with a nerdy twat who sits at his terminal all day? Do me a fricking favour, pal.

The fat, spotty, nerdy twat in his faded t-shirt that smells like a sweaty pillow: that’s you and me, that is. And deep down you wished so much it could happen that you partly believed it could.

I have occasionally been accused of writing click-bait, but anything to do with sex on the internet is not so much a "pull" as a "rhythmic yanking". From Mail Online to Huffington Post to BuzzFeed, every second item is "10 things you didn’t know about highly toned bikini babes" or a bullshit rewritten press release masquerading as journalism about online infidelity sites and apps with annoying names.

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Indeed these days, most of the sucker-talk about sex on the internet focuses on two areas: illicit liaisons via social networking and horror tales about paedophile rings. I’m sorry but stories about paedophilia are nothing but click-bait. The stories offer nothing new and serve up the same tired old clichés in the hope that you’ll be horrified and thrilled in equal measure. They are exploitative. They are based, not unlike Lara Croft’s uncovered octagonal breasts, largely on fiction and rumour.

Clichés? Well, have you ever wondered why paedophilia is described an “internet phenomenon” while no one ever suggests that pre-1980s paedophilia was a “Royal Mail phenomenon” or a “British Telecom phenomenon”? Also, have you noticed how paedophiles always seem to organise themselves in "rings" rather than "groups" or "societies" or, oh I dunno, "cabinets"?

One example of sensationalist ignorance I saw recently spewed up this startling assertion: “At the click of a button I found a range of sickening and obscene images on Instagram.”

I spent a good half an hour hunting for the "Sickening and Obscene" button in Instagram but I still haven’t found it.

On a more light-hearted note, I also read a piece of click-bait on the lines of "how to spot when your partner’s having an affair". This mostly concerned watching how your partner uses his or her mobile phone. Apparently, someone who is regularly fiddling (phwoar!) and prodding (wha-hey!) their smartphone is a likely culprit.

Since reading this, my phone use has not changed, but I feel inexplicably culpable every time I pick it up, as if the world’s accusing eyes are on me. I have tried to make my phone use more open, regularly sharing titbits of information I glean from my screen with my wife. Some look at this, I say. Here’s my phone lock PIN, I say. Ho, ho, look at the text I just received, I say.

My wife wasn’t bothered before but all this openness is making her suspicious. Her suspicion is making me feel guilty. And yet my only crime was to read some fucking click-bait bollocks on HuffPost.

And this leads me back to a TigerMobiles press release doing the rounds a week ago entitled "Smartphones Killing Sex Lives in the UK". A poll of couples aged between 18 and 30, we were told, revealed that lots of them would rather play CandyCrush than WobblyWillyHidesHisHelmet. Let’s analyse those headline figures, shall we?

75 per cent of couples prefer to chat with online followers who they may never have met in real life than talk to their partner in the flesh.

What you want them to do, take a pause in the middle of shagging in order to discuss solutions to the Crimea question? As the ravioli ad used to say: don’t talk, eat!

40 per cent have turned down sex with their partner in favour of playing on their smartphone.

That’s because they are aged 18–30. Once they have kids, they’ll dream wistfully back to those days when they had the opportunity to snake-wrestle as often as once a month.

85 per cent admitted to texting or social networking the dinner table.

Don’t talk to me, darling. I’m sexting my illicit lover with suggestions regarding the Crimea question.

18 per cent revealed they have even checked their phone during sexual intercourse.

Ah, that’ll be the women. It’s a multitasking thing, I understand. Just as long as you realise that every time you read something like this, you’re being exploited.


Thank you to the kind reader who contacted me this week to tell me about his friend’s problems with Gmail. I was thrilled to read all the details about the difficulties he is having with email addressing and left thoroughly upset to learn that he was unable to obtain satisfactory assistance from Google’s support team.

However, while I am flattered that you went on to ask me to help you sort it out, this will not be possible as I don’t give a flying fuck. ®

Alistair DabbsAlistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. Another kind reader wrote in to congratulate Alistair on his “truly brilliant… amazing!” column on Google Glass last week. Even though the email could be read as withering sarcasm, Alistair has printed it out and posted it to his mum via the Royal Mail phenomenon.

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