“21 Confessions About Penises That Are a Little Too Real.” “21 Times Your Puppy Was the Silliest Puppy of All.” “All the Looks from Black Girls Rock 2015.” These are just a few of the ridiculous headlines you can find on the front page of Buzzfeed.
If it isn’t clear why that last one is ridiculous, it’s because narrowing an event that is supposed to empower black women down to how they dressed is kind of condescending. That’s the problem with so much of the content Buzzfeed publishes: I don’t know if they are taking themselves seriously, or if they just think I am an idiot.
There is nothing wrong with listicles themselves. Hell, even quizzes can be fascinating and fun things to do on the Internet. But the way Buzzfeed uses them is often just immediate fan service (See: “Can You Make It Through This Post Without Your Ovaries Exploding?” a collection of gifs of smolderingly attractive men). No thanks Buzzfeed, I don’t want to know which secretly gay actor from a 1970’s television series is my spirit animal.
The authors who write these articles and the editors don’t seem to realize how violently they go against the liberal ideals of the website. Having an article that implies hot men will “make your ovaries explode” next to one about things only feminists will understand is downright insulting.
In the end, it comes down to clickbait. The more clicks a link gets the more ad revenue it brings in, so these articles have to be familiar to everyone while simultaneously offering nothing that might push people away. In the sea of these listicles, one might barely notice articles such as “What Will Happen In Congress With The Iran Deal After Bob Menendez’s Indictment?”.
That comes from Buzzfeed’s politics section, which one rarely sees an article from on the front page, unless it’s about which first lady had the nicest butt or something. In 2013, Buzzfeed continued a move it had been making slowly over the course of a few years from exclusively funny animal pictures to some pretty serious journalism.
They had at this point already hired several, like, real journalists. Ones who in 2013, Buzzfeed stationed in Russia, Kenya, Turkey and other places that you don’t send people to write about why 90’s cartoons were so great. If you think the politics section is surprising, wait until I tell you about their “Big Stories” section.
This name is a huge mislead—it sounds like they mean to say that this is a section for popular or breaking stories, but it isn’t. The name is literal. “Big” is meant to denote that these stories have a lot of words in them. In other words, that these stories are long. In other other words, Buzzfeed has an entire section dedicated to long form journalism, the exact opposite of a listicle.
What is even more baffling is that this section is, in all truth, respectable. The articles hold the reader in and are very well fact checked. I would argue that they are better than a lot of other online news sources, like Vice or Huffington Post.
My original issue was that Buzzfeed stemmed from the garden of garbage that they pedal and infect my Facebook wall with. But the issue I find gets to me more is that I go to the website every day and read genuinely good journalism.
Cody Johnston from Cracked.com wrote a sketch called “If the Internet was a High School.” In the video, Buzzfeed appears as a cheerleader who proudly declares “I’m actually really smart, but I just pretend to be stupid to stay popular!” Yeah, that about sums it up.