14.6 Ways BuzzFeed Is Infecting Society

BY KACIE GROSSMEIER

During a class last week, I watched one of my peers take a quiz on BuzzFeed to find out her ideal city. The results were calculated from her preference out of groups of eggs: cracked eggs, fried eggs, Easter eggs, eggs in cartons of 12 or six. She casually scrolled and clicked until she reached the end of the quiz. Her ideal city was Austin, Texas, said BuzzFeed. She shared her results on Facebook.

Lately, I can’t tell if I’m on my Facebook newsfeed or BuzzFeed’s “Life” section. Every day I log on, I’m apt to find at least one “27 Ways to Spice Up a Boring Banana” list, some video about if Disney princesses had real hair, and a soul-searching “15 Things Only Extroverted Introverts Who Like Iguanas Understand” post.

Shockingly, amidst all of the trivial content, BuzzFeed is actually considered a legitimate news source. I didn’t believe it at first either, but they do have a “News” page that involves some decent journalism.

So why is the BuzzFeed I mention at the beginning of this article, and not its “News” page, cluttering up my Facebook newsfeed worse than the Ice Bucket Challenge of 2014?

For the 3,000 Communications majors on this campus, maybe this will ring a bell: yellow journalism. BuzzFeed embraces the practice of sensationalizing its posts to make them more appealing. BuzzFeed takes the freedom of the press to publish news however it deems fit—a necessary component of our free society—and abuses its power.

BuzzFeed is ruining journalism for many competing news sources. As its popular “Life” and “Entertainment” sections blur the lines between informing and entertaining, other news posts are losing readership or worse, attempting to mimic BuzzFeed’s casual and meme-filled style.

Meanwhile, the readers of BuzzFeed easily synthesize the over-simplified articles and feel they are becoming informed. The articles read as if your friend is telling you the story. In a world where we are inundated with information, this casual style makes the article seem believable, making the reader susceptible of taking the information presented at face value.

When this becomes the norm for receiving information, credible news sources like the New York Times become difficult to understand because they don’t equate the European refugee crisis to memes of Black Friday shopping at PINK. Readers glaze over the density of words on the screen, or worse, glance through the article and then assume they fully understand the topic since that is what they can do with a BuzzFeed article.

Blame for this journalistic catastrophe can be placed on both sides. On  one side, there is BuzzFeed, who is churning out hollow, meaningless and basic posts by the tenfold. On the other, there is the reader who clicks on those posts. With every click, BuzzFeed profits—it is a business worth $1.5 billion—and, wanting more profit, creates more popular (read: trash) posts to generate more clicks.

This leads to why we cannot just say “live and let live” and allow ourselves to indulge in the guilty pleasure of BuzzFeed: each click, no matter the intentions behind it, gives BuzzFeed profit and incentive to continue producing pointless content. The implications of BuzzFeed’s mindless entertainment cost more than the entertainment the website provides.

As a writer, I want online news sources to profit and continue publishing freely and without reservation. However, the more BuzzFeed’s articles resemble journalistic garbage, the less laissez faire I feel. The Internet is endless. There are better sources out there for entertainment, and certainly better sources for news. Break up with BuzzFeed—it’s for the better of us all.

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