BuzzFeed is actually considered a news media organization.
That was unbelievable to me. So, I went to BuzzFeed’s website and found a legitimate news section that covers actual events in a professional manner.
Then why does the site have such a bad reputation?
Go on its Facebook page. With over four million likes, this page is likely where most people come into daily contact with the organization’s content. Unfortunately, that content is exclusively its notorious “viral” content: lists, hollow pop culture references, etc.
So where is all that news content?
Go on the BuzzFeed News Facebook page. There are fewer than 500,000 likes, meaning that BuzzFeed’s viral content gets at least eight times the coverage of its news stories.
The problem with BuzzFeed and similar websites is that they are businesses. They need to make profit. That’s fair. But they’ve become so popular and money grabbing with their lists and viral posts that many people have no idea what’s actually happening in the world.
BuzzFeed articles are designed to be quickly read, easily understood and to require little to no critical thinking. When people see an actual news article on Facebook, they open it up, expecting to quickly and easily digest all the information. When that doesn’t happen, they either say, “screw it” and move on, or worse, think they have easily digested all the information and are now an expert on the topic. Neither outcome is ideal, but the latter can be dangerous.
How many times on Facebook have you seen some horribly misinformed person ramble on about a topic as if they have studied it for years?
“A little learning is a dangerous thing,” said Alexander Pope in an essay. He felt you should either fully learn about something or not learn at all, and it’s safe to say Pope would abhor BuzzFeed.
Now, there are the people who casually read BuzzFeed articles but still read up on actual current events and it’s easy to say, “Live and let live!” The problem here is if you read BuzzFeed articles, you’re giving the site more money. You’re feeding coal into the viral post factory, adding to the smog it releases over social media that’s choking the rest of us.
So is this BuzzFeed’s fault? The site is just providing entertainment. Is it wrong that it is making money off of it?
Yes. It is BuzzFeed’s fault. It’s comparable to those early days of yellow journalism, sensationalizing every little thing while the real stories get lost in the haze of incredulousness. Sure, newspapers just wanted a little more business, a little more revenue. But BuzzFeed forgot that freedom of the press is a powerful freedom. And have wasted it.
Now, viral posts are chipping away at journalism, taking people’s attention away from real issues. Other news sources have to reduce their standards to compete with BuzzFeed for attention on the Internet.
BuzzFeed has also ushered in a seemingly endless line of copycat sites, flooding social media with endless lists and personality quizzes. It’s getting ridiculous.
BuzzFeed articles are written as if it’s a friend talking to you and I get how that can make them fun and casual. But you know what else is fun and casual? Actually talking to a friend. If I wanted to feel like I was talking to a friend, I wouldn’t turn to an article written by a stranger on the Internet. Maybe that’s just a sign of the times, but it certainly shouldn’t be.
If you don’t realize how awful BuzzFeed looks to everyone else, then just visit ClickHole. ClickHole basically exists for the sole purpose of ripping BuzzFeed to shreds by showing how unintelligent viral content can be.
“This video of a priest’s first time in snow will make your day.”
When you’re scrolling through an endless sea of Disney princesses with normal hair and “27 Ways to Eat a Cupcake,” remember to come up for air and read a news article or, I don’t know, anything else.
Daniel McKeon is a features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disagree? Read the pro-BuzzFeed column here.