A Project for Better Journalism chapter
Opinion

The problem with reading BuzzFeed

There are a few things I believe of the human race. I believe we are intelligent. I believe we are mindful of our surroundings. I believe we are hopeful for the future and have aspirations to improve the lives of not only ourselves but of others as well. Obviously there are exceptions to these generalizations, but recently I have found one website that has shaken these beliefs to my core. This website is BuzzFeed.com. 

   If you are unfamiliar with BuzzFeed, here’s a short rundown. BuzzFeed is a $1.7 billion  online media publication that describes itself as having “breaking news, vital journalism… and all the trending buzz you’ll want to share with your friends.” 

   Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

   In reality, BuzzFeed writes articles like “39 ridiculously cute gifts that I don’t think anyone could possibly resist” or “29 of the most hilarious messages from 2019.” They accumulate millions of reads every day writing about nothing, definitely not anything like “vital journalism.” I mean 29 messages? What does that even mean?

   BuzzFeed wouldn’t be such a problem if it wasn’t so shockingly popular. BuzzFeed’s website averages about 140 million reads a month. Just last November, the site gathered close to 5 million reads per day. Those statistics place BuzzFeed in the top 50 viewed news and media websites in the world. 

   Imagine how our society would look if people spent their time elsewhere, actually becoming informed. People would be more knowledgeable and our democracy would thrive.  

   BuzzFeed is by far the laziest website included in that top 50. Most of its articles are a list of things that are slightly related but hold no worth. At the time of writing this article, one of their trending pieces is “25 great tweets that I just really, really want you to see.” Writing this article takes close to no effort, no insight, and no talent. It takes less than ten seconds for a person to go on their phone and open up twitter, yet somehow, an article like this will most likely gain hundreds of thousands of reads and earn the website thousands of dollars. But it’s ok because the author really, really wants you to read it.  

   These facts are what make me concerned about BuzzFeed. Every day, millions of people waste their time reading articles that hold no importance. How can I expect people to be mindful and understanding of world issues if this is how they spend their free time? I understand that sometimes people want to escape some of the unfortunate realities that happen every day, but there are more useful ways to escape than to read BuzzFeed. If someone enjoys reading articles as a form of escape, they should find a website that better caters to their interests. If their interested in sports, they could read great articles from real journalists at Sports Illustrated or ESPN. If their interested in movies, The Hollywood Reporter writes quality articles every day. If their interested in music, Rolling Stone and Billboard offer many unique stories. I understand that people need their escapes, but that doesn’t mean that escape can’t be personally productive. 

   How can I have faith in our society to solve the world’s issues if they waste their time on such a website as pointless as BuzzFeed? On Friday, December 13, the top national trending stories perfectly exemplifies my concern. The third leading article was from CNN about how Michelle Obama had voiced her support for teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg after President Trump attacked her on twitter for being named Time Person of the Year. Just behind that at number four was an article from BuzzFeed titled “35 gifts for anyone who still doesn’t know what the heck to get their family members.” The fact that an article outlining how our President publicly mocked a teenage girl could be only slightly more viewed than a subjective and unnecessary article about what gifts to buy is demoralizing. Many people value this worthless, short-lived entertainment instead of expanding their horizons, and that to me is a major issue. 

   Saying a website like BuzzFeed is a danger to our society might sound extreme, but it really isn’t that far from the truth. In order for our democracy to thrive, we must have informed voters. The best and easiest way to be informed nowadays is through the media, specifically online. If people are choosing to value the type of information BuzzFeed publishes versus that of reputable sources like CNN or the Associated Press, then undoubtedly we are failing ourselves. 

   We, as a society, have to stop valuing fluff journalism like BuzzFeed. We need to pay more respect to quality journalism as a whole, otherwise we will lose it. We will lose our ability to be informed and instead every article will be something like “26 tweets from this month that actually made me snicker at my desk.”

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