Let me be clear: I have no intention of becoming a BuzzFeed writer. I enjoy lists (in fact, my life is organized by an elaborate series of lists written on brightly colored sticky notes), but I wouldn’t say I’m quite at BuzzFeed’s level. Yet when tasked with analyzing one form of writing from one particular venue, I could think of no better example: BuzzFeed articles are as formulaic as they are utterly pointless.
Once you’ve read one, you’ve practically read them all.
So I copied the title of this post into Google, and was instantly bombarded with lists: 21 Things Everyone Obsessed With CVS Knows To Be True, 25 Things All Married Men Know To Be True, 19 Things Every Eyeliner Addict Knows To Be True, 43 Things British People Know To Be True, and, my personal favorite, 21 Photos Only True Hi-Chew Lovers Will Understand.
According to BuzzFeed, there is a A Lot Of Truth In This World.
I ended up selecting an article about LaCroix (a brand of flavored bubbly water that apparently has some sort of cult following), and from there isolated BuzzFeed’s key attributes:
17 Things Every BuzzFeed Article Knows To Be True
- You have a clickbait title that’s outrageously specific (LaCroix is just one water brand), yet applicable to an oddly large sector of the population (all people drink water, right?).
- Your title ignores the rules of initial letter capitalization. Capitalize Every Letter Or Else.
- You use this title to manufacture some artificial sense of community, a community where people who like bubbly water instantly have something (21 Things) in common and should probably become best friends forever.
- You write about this community in the second person. It’s more personal that way.
- You include sort of “witty” subtitle, most likely a Mean Girls reference. Always a Mean Girls reference.
- You rely on lists. You understand that your list must have some arbitrary number of “things.” Not too arbitrary, however— make a list with more than 30 things and your “community” might explode from too much shared interest.
- You recognize that the order of this list really doesn’t matter.
- Nor does where you choose to begin a new point.
- You love sweeping generalizations. You’ve forgotten all you’ve learned about logical fallacies in 11th grade English.
- You add gifs that everyone will understand, like Disney movies or Beyoncé or Mean Girls (again).
- You include Instagram photos that both magnify the pervasiveness of your targeted obsession (look at all these happy artsy people drinking LaCroix!) and make people concerned about the premise of Instagram.
- You keep the vocabulary and syntax to a first grade level, but make sure to throw in some outdated slang. Capisce?
- You include some sort of consumerist undertone: buy makeup and clothes and food and OVERPRICED BUBBLY WATER. Fuel that capitalism!
- You spontaneously appear on someone’s Facebook feed right when they need to begin their Stats homework. You revel in the ensuing procrastination.
- You fundamentally misunderstand self-deprecating humor.
- You go viral, and watch gleefully as the comment threads lengthen with posts from people who have way too much time on their hands and rarely recognize sarcasm.
- Finally, you experience unhealthy levels of existential angst.
Despite the humor here, I really do think BuzzFeed is one of the strangest manifestations of internet culture: it capitalizes on the ability of digital fragments— gifs and Instagram posts and fashion trends—to conjure up some sort of emotion, be it nostalgia or belonging or insecurity. On one level, I think this underscores our society’s futile search for meaning. On another level, it’s truly absurd— mostly, it’s truly absurd.
But in any case, though I may never understand the sociological implications of BuzzFeed, at least I know 17 Things To Be True.