I did not click on the Twitter ad pictured above, out of fear for my soul. There’s something about the come-on “Tiger Woods’1 daughter was adorable as a child, but what she looks like today is insane” that leaves me cold. Probably, it’s the part where I get ready to see how insane someone looks. That’s just the kind of thing I want to see, and also just the kind of thing I want to stop wanting to see. All it took to push me over the edge into decent behavior, in this case, was a chubby-cheked little girl. I submit that our visceral revulsion to clicking on the link in this advertisement tells us something about our values. It gives us a glimpse of our urges and the flickering scruples that hold them back, and it’s the subject of today’s Close Reading.
I think we can agree that you would never see clickbait about how insane Tiger Woods’s daughter looks as a child. Our society agrees on a dwindling number of principles, but one of them is that making fun of children is wrong—even when the children are famous. But in inviting us to see how insane Tiger Woods’s daughter looks today, this ad inadvertently reminds us that she was once a child. We all were. Contrary to its purposes, this piece of clickbait makes a strong argument against drawing undue attention to anyone.
But what if that attention is positive? Like I said, I didn’t click on the link. I guess it’s possible that, if I had, I would have found that Tiger Woods’s daughter looks insanely smart as she performs CRISPR gene editing in a research laboratory. I bet not, though. I bet there is one of two discoveries waiting at the other end of this link:
- Tiger Woods’s daughter looks insane-ly fat or drug-addled.
- She looks insane-ly hot.
Pure conjecture here, but my money is on #2. The very existence of this ad should warn us not to bank on decency. Still, inviting us to look at how hot someone is seems like a more profitable venture than inviting us to witness her decay. People feel better about that kind of thing. Number 2 is our best-case scenario for this unclicked link, but it’s still weird and gross. Look how hot somebody’s daughter is! Can you believe this smokin’ babe used to be a four year-old girl? Can you believe they all were? This line of thinking makes me went to dress in burlap and read Marcus Aurelius, free from all forms of objectification. It might be better than seeing that she’s insanely fat, but I’m not certain.
Because I didn’t click on the link, possibility (1) and possibility (2) exist in superposition for me, as a kind of Schroedinger’s Clickbait. The intermediary state of these two results, while impossible, exists until I click on the link. Their average—their superimposed state—is a window on our age, a glimpse at what advertisers have determined we want to see in other people. That sight is somewhere between failure and sex object. It is the wave our attention forms as it oscillates between what we hold in contempt and what we want to fuck.
Anyway, it’s a bad strategy to try to propagate that wave from a picture of a little girl. We don’t want to make a spectacle of children. We only want to do that to adults. And take it from me, pal: what Tiger Woods’s daughter looks like today is insane. She is the product of a whole world seen from one perspective and changing minutely, relentlessly, until Tiger Woods’s daughter becomes unrecognizable to herself. What she looks like today is insane, she thinks, catching her reflection in a window and wondering, with a child’s curiosity, who is that woman?