Buzz Words

BuzzFeed

I really don’t like BuzzFeed. I fear that their insistence on the importance of listicles and clickbaiting has a negative impact on the overall intelligence of humanity. BuzzFeed generates content that is predictable and does not even attempt to challenge its readers. BuzzFeed is formulaic and reductive and misrepresents the English language in a way that I find disturbing and worrisome. I wanted to prove this some how. I think I might have figured out how.

You see, BuzzFeed has a “Search” function. Normally, I assume people perusing Buzzfeed might search for things they are interested in. I’m sure if I searched “Kanye West” or “Football” plenty of BuzzFeedian content would arise. But I have no interest in knowing what BuzzFeed has to say about my interests.

Instead, I chose to use BuzzFeed’s own powers against itself in order to better illustrate my argument of the site’s lack of creativity and (in my harsh opinion) any intrinsic value.

Let’s say you are looking for something “Life Changing” – don’t worry, BuzzFeed has got you covered. Here’s a few highlights.

Life Changing Smores

Those 13 listicles collectively claim to have 318 items of “life-changing” magnitude. None of them were posted earlier than April of 2014. BuzzFeed has changed your life over three times a day on average during the past three months!

How much do you know about Maya Angelou? Probably not much if a tweet from her could alter your worldview. How about bookstores? Those ones will literally change your life. Real question – how many books a year does a regular visitor of BuzzFeed read? That’s not me throwing shade, it’s just hard to imagine that anyone who spends their free time falling into the BF wormhole would also read enough to have their life changed by a book store. I hardly read books anymore. I’m too busy being angry at the Internet. 27 different Tater Tot recipes that will change my life? There are only two ingredients necessary for Tater Tot perfection: chili and cheese. I will keep my Tater Tot life unchanged BuzzFeed, thank you very much.

But let’s say you aren’t looking for something life-changing. Maybe instead you’re more interested in finding something that “You Won’t Believe” in your searches. Hey! BuzzFeed is perfect for that too!

Unbelievable

Again, none of these lists predate April 2014. So what is it that I can’t believe BuzzFeed? That I am more likely to orgasm if my feet are warm? That this Canadian kid was sneaking a pint at a Blue Jays game? People do it under the sheets all the time, and the Blue Jays have not been that fun to watch in the past. Nothing here seems that unreasonable really, let alone unbelievable.

What if you don’t need your mind shattered by the latest unbelievable thing that BuzzFeed has listified for you? What if you’re simply looking for something “You Didn’t Know“?

I_Had_No_Idea_You_Were_Vegan

Here’s one thing you actually might not believe – all of those posts were made in the past ten days. From this list of lists alone, BuzzFeed taught you 320 things you didn’t know less than a fortnight ago. But does any of it matter? I love Adventure Time, but how does my knowledge that Pendleton Ward’s favorite character is BMO affect my viewing experience? What difference does it make that Sam Smith is a fan of Beyonce? Isn’t everyone?

I’m tired of learning. Let’s say I want to see something “Mind Blowing” instead…

Mind Blowing

Wow, BuzzFeed sure is confident that they can blow our minds! What scares me about this search though was how easily many of these articles could have replaced “blow your mind” with “life-changing” and no one would know the difference. It’s as if the editors at BuzzFeed have some sort of fucked up thesaurus whose only replacements for the phrase “mildly surprising” are “MIND BLOWING” and “EARTH ALTERING.”

Also, the most mind-blowing thing about this list? That it took Sam Stryker, a member of the BuzzFeed writing staff, six years to fully understand the sexual innuendo flowing out of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” and that when he finally did figure it out, he thought it would blow our minds.

After all of those lists, maybe your mind is a bit too blown. Instead, you’re probably looking for “Things Only (X) Understand” – NOTE: X is a variable, and can be replaced with almost anything. See below.

Only_Cold_Hands_Understand

That sure is a lot of understanding BuzzFeed, and exclusive understanding at that. By framing these lists as “Only X people will understand,” BF immediately poses a question to anyone who happens to see their headline: “Well, are you X or not?”

I think this triggers some sort of rudimentary part of our brain that is addicted to the idea to belonging to the tribe, whether your tribe was one of musical theatre, working in public radio, or ketchup loving. It is always nice to feel that you are not alone, and these BuzzFeed lists in a weird way, fulfill that desire. This is absurd because BuzzFeed is not where you should be finding your tribes. If you like podcasts, listen to them, and find other people that like them as well. If you were a teenager in the early 2000s, you do not need a list of 59 reference points to double check and make sure.

Is this just me? Am I alone in being frustrated by these lists? Is the standard reaction to these collections simply, “Yeah, duh, the Internet is full of shit that’s just there to get clicks. Why you mad, bro?”

I understand that BuzzFeed writers probably don’t believe those s’mores will change my life, that the struggle of people with cold hands is incomprehensible to those of us whose hands remain room temperature.

I’m mad because I think that these lists have larger implications than lowering employee productivity in the workplace. Buzzfeed is altering the meaning of words and lowering the standards of the English language by its over-reliance on superlative. It is a stretch for a person to describe one picture of a big, rusty hook as “mind-blowing.”  When you claim to have found 17 of them, that’s when I call bullshit.

The same goes for life-changing. I think I can count the amount of “life-changing” experiences I have had on four hands. My first experiences with women, drugs, travel, etc. – they all changed my life in terms of how I thought about the world around me and how I acted on a day-to-day basis.

BuzzFeed claims to have 21 ways to open a bottle that will change my life.

The problem here is that the system is broken. A list of ways to open a bottle has a place on the Internet – I have googled “How to Open a Wine Bottle Without a Corkscrew” multiple times in my life, and thanks to some helpful life-hacks (hammer and nail), I was able to enjoy a romantic evening in a London park with a girl I was very fond of.

But describing all 21 of these bottle-opening strategies as life-changing is lazy and unnecessary. It’s only permitted on the Internet because it works, because enough people click on it to justify that the same language be used again and again and again.

So this is my stand against BuzzFeed.

I doubt it blew your mind. It probably didn’t change your life.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.

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5 Responses to Buzz Words

  1. BuzzFeed is the boy who cries wolf, but the wolf is a bunch of click bait lists aimed at the sons and daughters of the aughts who should probably be getting more sleep instead of reading about how little sleep millennials are getting.

  2. Heh says:

    Edgy as hell

  3. JM says:

    The BuzzFeed backlash has begun…

  4. Pingback: Fin: Cumia firing hoax?, the case against Buzzfeed and Moms Against Gaming  | TechnologyTell

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