The Problem with Buzzfeed

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November 18, 2013 by NowhereButPop

By Andrew Doscas

Anyone born before 1992, can remember, however vaguely, what life was like before every home had a computer, and before you could use the phone and the internet at the same time.  But there’s an entire generation of people who are now entering adulthood who have only known life with computers and instant access to anything.[1]  Buzzfeed is the embodiment and totality of a society that was born into the internet.  It is instant access to a cornucopia of knowledge and information that we didn’t even know we wanted.  It’s also the biggest and most prolific entertainment and socially conscientious pop culture website that despite being a professional website with their own team of writers, allows anyone to post supplementary articles.

On the surface this appears to be a good thing because it deconstructs the boundaries between the established, who are capable of expressing their opinions, and those unable to reach a mass forum otherwise.  It allows for a greater connectivity between people, regardless of if they are professional writers, amateur bloggers, or anyone else with something to say.  Buzzfeed gets the information out there, and at this point in age of the internet, that is the most important thing.  Regardless of what that information is, so long as it is accessible and digestible it will be discovered and processed.

The problem is that as big a purveyor of information that Buzzfeed, they are helping in the condensation and compression of information into its most streamlined, and as a result dulled, form imaginable.  It’s not only buzzfeed.com that is doing this, but they are the most visible culprit.  It’s crossed the line from being easily accessible and comprehendible information to now being presented in the briefest and barest of ways.  The goal isn’t to proliferate or inspire new ways of thinking, which is what information does at its best, but to merely preset empirical data that can be consumed by mass quantities in the least amount of time.  What’s happening is a reversal of the old fairy tale of the tortoise and the hare, where now the hare will win every time, because the only thing that matters is speed.

This is exactly why print news hasn’t been doing well over the past few years.  All we’ve come to care about is how easily we can obtain the information.  As a by-product we try and cut as many corners as we possibly can in trying to get the pure data.  We don’t care for presentation, style, or eloquence anymore because our dwindling attention span sees these things as obstacles in trying to achieve our goal of simply getting facts.  We’ve been given an inch in the growing accessibility of information, but we still demand a mile more which has facilitated our laziness in not only receiving information but also in presenting information.

The golden rule of giving a speech or a presentation has always been to be as succinct as possible so as to not bore the audience.  But maybe, we’ve taken it too far and instead of trying not to bore through long and drawn out ideas, it’s gotten to the point where we’re now conceding boredom and laziness and demanding that facts and information be presented to us as quickly as possible.  In a sense, we’ve forgotten how to be patient and articulate, because the internet has shown us that we don’t have to anymore.  A childish regression if ever there was one.

Right now on the main Buzzfeed home page the main articles are “11 Cures for Your Quarter Life Crisis”, “10 Celebrity Tweets You Missed Today”, “14 Reasons why Mom Jeans are the Best”, and “22 Problems only People with Truly Terrible Eyesight Understand”.   All of these articles are the same- a picture followed by a two sentence caption, then repeat.  My question is: Who gives a flying fuck about any of these things?  But people read it anyway.  Why?  Because even if they have only a passing interesting in it, the article is still there and it’s concise enough that it won’t take up any time.  We can invest the time in it because going into these countdowns we know that it won’t take too long to receive the information that they present.  There’s also the slight bonus that we might find one reason out of the fourteen why we should start wearing mom jeans that we agree with.

By having websites and other presenters of information adhering to the disconcerting trend of shortening and compressing information by any means possible, it only adds to the growing problem of my generations dwindling attention span.  Information presented only empirically without any sort of analytics of interpretation only conveys the data; it doesn’t promote thought or intellectual capacity.  My fear is that we might no longer even want this.  We’re living in a society where the hare has already won the race; is there anyone else who’s still concerned for the tortoise wheezing for breathe as he tries to simply finish the race?


[1] And by anything, I mean anything.  From videos of people fucking to unreleased songs by the most obscure of bands to live footage of dictators being executed, there is nothing that the internet circa 2013 cannot provide us.

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