Okay, so I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but I spend a lot of time on Facebook.
And seemingly overnight, I’ve noticed a new craze sweeping through my newsfeed — a BuzzFeed quizzicle* wherein users can find out what career they should be in, rather than the one they are in. I don’t exactly know why, but this just pushed me over the edge.
Maybe it’s because it was on the heels of other hard-hitting journalistic BuzzFeed quizzes like “Which City Should You Live In?” or “Which Punctuation Mark Are You?” or “Which Monopoly Token Would Make the Best Cover Photo For Your Memoir?”)
People, we can do better. We must do better.
(Not about spending all that time on Facebook. Be serious, here. We’re all hopelessly hooked on Facebook, get a grip, wouldja?)
No, we must do better than to be squandering our hard-earned leisure time, and the attention and valuable eyeball exposure of our friends and family members, by reading and sharing articles from BuzzFeed. Why, you ask?
Because our national capacity for critical thinking is being sabotaged by the Trojan horse of social shareability (I’ll unpack this idea in a bit).
The obvious solution is not to read BuzzFeed, although they have so many writers dispatching easy-to-digest content upon so many topics, that may prove to be downright Sisyphean in practice.
So, since someone at BuzzFeed decided that what I need is unsolicited career advice, I thought I would return the favor.
To anyone currently writing for BuzzFeed, or who might consider writing for them in the future — don’t. You might think you’re just having fun and making some cash, but you’re making the internet a worse place.
But don’t despair! There are PLENTY OF OTHER PLACES you could be writing for. As a matter of fact, here’s a list!
The Huffington Post
The Washington Post
The AV Club
Your Favorite Website’s Message Board
Facebook or Twitter
Your Own Website
LiterallyAnywhereElseThanBuzzFeed.com (but register the domain first)
If lists aren’t your thing, or if you have an attention span that lasts longer than 30 seconds, feel free to continue to get my explanation of why BuzzFeed is so bad.
Sites like BuzzFeed and Bleacher Report (and many, many others) have clickbaited their way into SEO mastery to such an extent that they are no longer ashamed to admit that they value the viral shareability as much as the quality of their content. They’ve helped to formulate the contours of the 21st-century information economy, where the trustworthiness of traditional news brands have been diluted to such an extent that, practically speaking, what a national news journalist thinks about story matters less to us than what our friends think of that same story.
In theory, that may not be a bad thing — after all, you know your friends better than you ever knew Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, or Dan Rather. But unfortunately, many of our friends lack the critical thinking skills to discern good, trustworthy, interesting or informative content from bad, salacious, untrue, immoral or unethical content. Not that the line is always that clear, with certain hot-button news stories, there can be no objective impartiality and the truth is only found by examining multiple perspectives.
But the BuzzFeed-ification of our internet news means that people, by and large, are less interested in even answering the question of “is it helping me or making my world better to read this?” and instead more likely to say, “hey, my friend shared this, I’m gonna check it out!” Which, let’s be honest here, is dumb. You wouldn’t just ask a random friend to fix your toilet, diagnose your heart condition, or manage your investment portfolio. So why are you letting them pick your news?**
So just stop, Buzzfeed staff. You’re better than that.
We’re better than that.