The New Buzzword

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 websiteTwitterFacebook, 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:

  1. 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.
  2. It reduces news to a silly format and writers could have to sacrifice content in order to fit the genre.
  3. 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

Buzzfeed: Instagram: @caitie_evans

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.

Buzzfeed’s content genres

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.



Watching Hashtags Grow Up

I was homeschooled alongside my younger brother by our very loving mother. She taught us how to see the world through a different lens and how to sleep past 11am, just because we could. My mom would spend hours the night before teaching herself the material to make sure we got the best possible education. We would go to the basement to find our school room transformed to Ancient Greece; we would sit on pillows and eat dates and figs and learn about the culture of a new world. Our schooling involved a lot of food. We travelled the world in our basement schoolhouse, but somehow we never made it to the continent of Grammar.

Sure, we would diagram sentences and find each little part of speech, but my mom was just as confused as I was about what the heck a preposition was and where it went. I entered a college-prep private high school knowing nothing of grammar. I was terrified of MadLibs, the psycho game that makes fun out of grammar. It was never fun when kids would exclaim, “You don’t know what an adjective is?!”  Grammar seemed foreign and like something everyone understood but me.

popular meme with improper grammar? there isn't anyone who has time for that

Enter me becoming an English major. When I would tell people about my major they would immediately say, “Oh, so you’re a Grammar Nazi?” of course I played the humble card and denied it, but I knew one day in my college career I’d have to come face to face with grammar. I waited until my senior year to take Grammar & Linguistics and I couldn’t have made a better choice. Times have changed since elementary school and now aspects of social media are considered grammar. Hashtags are something that College Senior Indy is very good at.

I’ve been using hashtags since they popped up in social media. Hashtags are crucial for social involvement, brand recognition, or initiating a break up. This article is about a teen that used hashtags on an Instagram post to let his girlfriend know they were breaking up. Since then, #transformationtuesday can be used to show your new relationship status as well as your weight loss transformation.
Hashtags can get you free stuff. For instance, this past summer I was staying at a nice hotel near the airport before my early flight. The room was disgusting and had many issues. I tweeted the photo and added the hotel name in a hashtag and eventually the hotel direct messaged me and my room was comped.

Hashtags provide up to date information about major events taking place around the world. During the Paris attacks in 2015 I remember scrolling through #prayforparis and getting new information through that venue rather than televised news because it’s so much faster.  Imagine how different the catastrophic events of 9/11 would have been if we used hashtags? Social movements, worldwide tragedies, and Presidential election updates are all revolutionized through hashtags.

person forming a hashtag symbol with his index and middle finger of both hands

t-shirt with hashtags nobody cares about your hashtags
Hashtags evolved from just social media. The new-medium punctuation form has seeped into fashion, texting, and real-life hand gestures. They are invading all different kinds of media, from social media to television to brand management classes. Life from here on out is going to be surrounded by hashtags. You can either be a cynic, like my dad, and refuse to cooperate in the function of the “new pound sign” or you can get on board and find new information, get free stuff, and stay plugged in.

A new part of punctuation has developed and pervaded our world. It isn’t particular to just one language, or any one education level. Every person, rich or poor, man or woman, can use a hashtag correctly. There is no specific handbook of rules for hashtag uses, the scary people on the internet won’t jump down your throat about a misuse like they would for other grammar mistakes. The best thing about social media grammar is that it’s still growing up. I get to grow up during the creation of a budding grammar empire that will change the face of the world as we know it. As of right now, in 2016, I can make up my own rules to social media grammar. I don’t have to feel dumb during MadLibs anymore because I can use hashtags. I am a part of a social media revolution that is changing the rules to education, human connection, and simply life as we know it.

In what ways do you guys use hashtags? Comment below and tell me how your experience with hashtags has been!