The emergence of popular media website BuzzFeed has transformed itself into a credible news source with topics ranging from ISIS in Mosul to cute outfits for dogs. BuzzFeed has expertly utilized social media as a promotion tool and crafts their clickbait to a T, bringing in more than 7 billion content views per month. BuzzFeed has their handprints all over the internet: on their website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube page.
When BuzzFeed came on the scene the genre of the listicle blew up. Wikipedia defines the listicle as “a short-form of writing that uses a list as its thematic structure” so it’s something to pique our interest, but is it going to overtake the traditional form of an article? Will this new genre invade our academic spaces? Will our conferences and newscasts be focused around finally reaching number 10 and getting the OK to turn off our brains? Imagine a college senior’s final paper formatted as a list? Would you dock points for the simplistic, dumbed down style, or would you look at it as a creative, forward thinking style applying new techniques to an antiquated system? The listicle has certainly changed the game of popular news media and I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually colleges move toward a more bullet-point style of writing.
Here’s 3 reasons why listicles could be dangerous:
- We’re becoming a clickbait culture – only opening the article based on a quick, 10 words or less headline. Our culture likes the look of a listicle, less words all stuck together in that scary article format.
- It reduces news to a silly format and writers could have to sacrifice content in order to fit the genre.
- We’re writers, we don’t do numbers!
The New Yorker’s article, “A LIST OF REASONS WHY OUR BRAINS LOVE LISTS” says that “it spatially organizes the information; and it promises a story that’s finite, whose length has been quantified upfront” and that if given the choice, we will choose small, “bite-sized” portions of news about China and ISIS rather than spend our time on paragraphs about impending doom. It’s easier to numb our feelings about the world and compress them into short lists instead of digesting the news, recognizing the state of our world, and making a change. If learning about the election only takes 15 easy steps, why immerse yourself in politics and get involved in the state of the nation?
Granted, there’s some days when you just need 21 Puppies So Cute You Will Literally Gasp And Then Probably Cry
I mean, look at that little munchkin, but can’t our culture find something redeemable to spend our time on? 7 BILLION views a month! Facebook is dominated with BuzzFeed posts, so much so that you can’t look at your news feed without seeing a BuzzFeed article or copycat listicle. BuzzFeed has tapped into all genres imaginable and yet they keep coming up with more.
For all their faults, BuzzFeed has found their niche – maybe a global niche? – and they are relishing their success. With offices around the world, 1300+ employees, and a growing credibility, it seems that BuzzFeed is here to stay.
One of BuzzFeed’s breakout stars, Matt Bellassai, got famous from his weekly video series where he “gets drunk at his desk and complains about stuff,” like the one below about the downside of fall. Bellassi went on to win a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Social Media Star.
The upside to BuzzFeed is that most of the content is purely positive. There’s no slander of presidential candidates or injection of religious perspectives (or lack there of) and what you see is what you get. They work on inclusion and acceptance of everyone, including those 32 weird shower habits everyone does but you felt alone about. BuzzFeed helps the people of the world feel less like a weirdo and brings our aforementioned habits into the light. Then we can share it all over our personal social media and Aunt Jenny can comment something like “bless your heart” and eventually we’ll delete the post. Family drama aside, BuzzFeed brings people together whereas other news sources divide people further.
Although I may not be in love with the idea of a listicle like so many of my fellow Facebook friends, but I might be interested in the possible evolution of the genre in an academic space. Do you think it has a chance to change the way we view education? Or has it already changed our view?
Please comment below and lets talk about your love/hate relationship with listicles, or send me your favorite BuzzFeed links and we can bond over that one thing we do when we’re alone in the car.