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Terry Woster: 37 ways I regret falling for clickbait

MITCHELL, S.D. - As I took a scroll through the pages of Facebook the other evening, I clicked on an article titled something like “37 Things Old People Say They Regret Not Doing When They Were Young.’’

Old, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes “older citizens’’ don’t consider themselves more than, oh, early middle aged or something. Whatever perception the article carried about age, the title caused me to think about the notion of looking back over a long life with regrets. I mean, who but a totally clueless narcissist or a modern-day presidential candidate (wait, I repeat myself) can reach six or seven or eight decades and not regret a few things?

Even Elvis Presley sang, “Regrets, I’ve had a few,’’ although he went on to say, “But then, again, too few to mention.’’ The point is, the King of Rock ’n’ Roll had regrets, at least in a song.

I recognized as I checked out the article that it was “clickbait.’’ Normally I avoid that stuff the way I avoid pondweed in the river shallows when I kayak. Clickbait is a term for online content that tempts a person to “click’’ and read. Each click is somehow recorded the way a turnstile clicks and counts people at a rock concert. Each click generates advertising revenue for somebody somewhere. (I don’t understand it, either.) Most of the time, even though clicking on the bait costs me nothing but time, I fight the curiosity factor and ignore the bait, the way bullheads so often ignored the worm on a hook I offered them at the stock dam back on the farm.

But this bit of bait offered 37 things that old people regret. Thirty-seven things? I understand a Top 10 list, or “Five Things To Do When You Visit Ireland,’’ or “A Dozen Ways to Spiff Up Your Patio on a Budget.’’ The other night, I even succumbed to the temptation of a link that promised “21 Novels You Must Read Before You Die.’’

In my defense, I like to read, and I wouldn’t mind knowing 21 must-read novels. But after about three clicks that only took me to more ads and a promise of information if I kept on clicking, I gave up. I generated revenue for someone. (I guess I’ll have to generate my own must-read list at the local library.)

Anyway, 37 things to regret. That’s a very specific number, not one a person normally would use in a list. Anybody ever ask you to list the top 37 things you like about college, or a restaurant or the Beatles? No, it’s always, “Name three things you’d bring to this company if we hired you,’’ stuff like that. A list of 37 things suggested to me that the authors had identified exactly 37 things old people regret. The very exactness of the number sucked me in, and I clicked my way onto the site.

First regret? “Not traveling when you had the chance.’’

Well, I’d like to see Ireland and the Civil War battlefields in this country. I doubt that will happen. I regret it as much as I regret not ordering the large sundae at the ice-cream shop last week. Besides, Nancy and I do travel in our older life, mostly to see kids and grandkids. No regrets there.

High on the list of 37 regrets were not learning another language and not seeing my favorite musician. Boy, I don’t regret not becoming fluent in German. It would be nice to know Lakota. I’d have enjoyed seeing Elvis or the Beatles or the Grateful Dead in concert, but not so much that I regret it half a century later.

What do I regret? Little things like not applying myself to piano as a kid and not continuing with string bass lessons in sixth grade. (Neither of those was on the list.) Big things like working too much, caring what other people think, holding grudges, not spending more time with the family and not being grateful for every day. (Those were on the list.)

Honestly, I kind of regret succumbing to the temptation of the clickbait.