Buzzfeed dilutes serious journalism

The saying goes that if you do something 21 times, it will become a habit. With that in mind, something this semester that has been more ingrained into my life as, embarrassingly enough, attending all of my classes. That was my New Year’s resolution and I’m happy to say that my goal to increase my class attendance has been reached — at least for now. Sometimes, however, to combat the dry spells of some lectures, I turn to a trusty agent: Buzzfeed.

Grace Wang | Daily Trojan

Grace Wang | Daily Trojan

I was introduced to Buzzfeed just as social media started to become a really dominating force in my life. I was beginning to become a more active member of Facebook and even began tweeting. This is when I realized that to be an interesting social media contributor and avoid mundane updates, social media users relied on information-gathering websites. Though this didn’t completely eradicate the “eating a giant hamburger” or “walking my dog” statuses, it did add dimension to my Facebook and Twitter feeds. With Buzzfeed, I got to view “31 Very Important Pigs are Here to Melt Your Heart” and “21 Reasons Ryan Gosling And Rachel McAdams Need To Get Back Together.” Over time, I would visit Buzzfeed first thing in the morning, opening a multitude of tabs and drowning my browser in a sea of red ‘B’s. But now, it’s frightening to see how much I rely on Buzzfeed for the news I receive.

Before I venture into my inevitable critique of Buzzfeed, I should point out that there are many positive aspects of Buzzfeed. Unlike most news sites, Buzzfeed implements Facebook with each comment, thus holding people accountable for their input and encouraging more positive dialogue. This factor fosters Buzzfeed’s intellectual community. The site also offers quizzes that give insight to a person’s characteristics. I have discovered many dormant aspects of my life, ranging from what my greatest weaknesses are and, more importantly, which boy-band member is my soul mate -— Niall Horan from One Direction, in case you were wondering.

Possibly the most unique Buzzfeed feature is the way in which it presents its information in a condensed, picture-heavy format. This might be appealing for some, as people can stay socially conscious and feel educated while being informed in a time-efficient, visual way. And the innovators at Buzzfeed are constantly trying to figure out new ways to connect to people through trendy memes or nostalgic references. That way, people will find unfamiliar events more relatable.

On the other hand, I feel like this system contributes to the dissipation of traditional journalism. Maybe I’m being old-fashioned – — and a little biased — but I like the black-ink text deliverance of news. The details might not be what I ultimately remember about the current event, but they definitely help shape my opinions on the matter. I have to be the one to appropriate the event for myself, and I shouldn’t be swayed by a picture of a certain celebrity or woodland creature to think a certain way.

Additionally, a report with just the main points is a product of how we want to receive current events. When journalism is reduced to simplistic measures, it provides less space to get a point across and thus more room for generalizations and shortcuts, a phenomenon found by a study conducted by the Los Angeles Times. How information is presented will shape how people carry this information and use it.

Not all parts of Buzzfeed are inane takes on societal musings. There are some parts of the site that offer comprehensive, third-party reporting of events, such as what is currently happening in Ukraine and Venezuela. Follow-ups even include deep analysis of what happened.

Given the platform on which these pieces of information are transmitted, it’s hard to differentiate between what should be taken seriously sometimes. Serious information among a modge-podge of quizzes, best Jennifer Lawrence faces and Disney Channel throwbacks disrespect events with gravity. For example, I feel like the conditions of the Sochi Olympic hospitality were deplorable and a reflection of wealth disparity throughout the world. Buzzfeed reported the incidents, where the article did not receive as much traffic as the post about ’90s artifacts. Subsequent posts about the Sochi Olympics poked fun at the situation.

Maybe a follow-up to my New Year’s resolution to attend class more shall be to get less distracted by Buzzfeed. I know now that it is not a source for education but, rather, for entertainment. To my 32 Twitter followers and Facebook friends and non-friends, we’ll all still be able to ogle at cute puppies and kitties.


Danni Wang is a freshman majoring in psychology. Her column, “Pop Fiction,” runs on  Tuesdays.