Yesterday I began seeing references to several news articles citing a “study” that men’s beards contained some less-than-hygienic particulate. First of all— if you really want to know how unhygienic the things in your life are, read this, but honestly, don’t. Let’s just say there are things we all interact with (in far more intimate ways) that are MUCH more unsanitary. BTW: there’s no substantial evidence that dialing back your hygienic practices will make your immune system stronger, and that’s not the point; the point is it’s essentially impossible to live any kind of a normal life without coming into contact with some pretty gross microbes. That’s okay, though… we have an immune system, the workings of which are actually quite spectacular.

Luckily for us bearded guys, the good folks over at The Guardian cleared things up by tracking down the original “study” and identifying it as nothing more than a poorly-framed TV news stunt conducted by some local ABC affiliate in New Mexico. So if you are a “beard hater,” I’m afraid you’re going to have to settle for supporting that opinion based on your own subjective aesthetic, and if you’re a “beard lover” (which everyone should be) you can go right on proudly showing off your beard (or embracing the beard of your bearded love ones).

There is a darker side to this story though. It’s pretty obvious that this tale wasn’t spread via social media outlets because people are honestly that concerned with the facial hygiene of others— the original story was shared mostly by people who already didn’t like beards, with the resulting backlash coming from people who have beards (I am part of this group) or who prefer men with beards. One of the most surprising effects of social media is its ability to push people from the center to the fringes of their arguments. No one can ever concede even the smallest of points, and for some reason, anyone who disagrees with you must be Hitler. Enter the “click bait website.”

This next part won’t make much sense unless you first understand a few simple things about the internet. Most people aren’t generating sites full of entertaining web content out of the goodness of their hearts (The Cracked Looking Glass included)! Somehow, in some way, they expect some type of return on the work they do, and trust me— maintaining a site full of fresh content, content that people want to read, is a LOT of work. The public repeatedly stands up and refuses to pay for content on the internet. Fine, I get that, but if you don’t want to pay a subscription than you MUST endure a different annoyance … advertising. Ads are how most sites you visit pay for their servers, computers, graphic software, etc. The sites get paid by delivering viewers to the advertisers. That’s you by the way. I know modern consumers takes some umbrage at this, but honestly… everybody wins. Without ads, the internet would devolve back to a colorless encyclopedia with a few places to buy stuff. Sorry, but it’s true. The more traffic your site gets, the more money you make. Now it might blow your mind to know there are sites out there constantly producing content that is INTENTIONALLY upsetting, purposely designed to enrage people. Think about it: What’s the point of crafting a carefully-written piece that argues both sides of the issue, pitting them against one another? To make as many readers, on all ends of the political spectrum, as angry as possible.

All that matters, in the pay-per-click advertising game, is how much traffic you can attract to your site.

And you probably even KNOW some of the worst offenders, and read there. You may even turn to them as unimpeachable sources of information. But I assure you: more often than not, their primary goal is NOT to further whatever cause or worldview they champion in any particular article. Their PRIMARY goal is to attract as many people to their site as possible to generate ad dollars. And a lot of the time there’s nothing they won’t say or do to keep the traffic (and ad dollars) flowing. All that being said… don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!