29 Jul Has BuzzFeed Ruined Blogging?
These past few months I’ve been feeling a little uninspired and I wonder if you can tell by looking at my blog…
Every other article I publish is a list of things to do or places to visit, arranged neatly into sections and subsections, all straightforwardness and soundbites.
I’ve always maintained that what makes blogs appealing are the people behind them. But when I look at my recent posts – and those of most other successful bloggers, many of whom are my friends and talented writers – I feel underwhelmed.
Instead of unique stories I see the same attention-grabbing headlines you might see on millions of other mainstream websites. A million individuals merging into a grey stream of sameness.
What has gone wrong? Is this even a real problem? Here are my two cents…
BuzzFeed And Listicles
Don’t shoot the messenger, but BuzzFeed is slowly killing blogging. Its listicles are tightening their grip around our creativity and reducing it to a raspy echo of its full voice.
Is it fair to put all the blame on BuzzFeed? Of course not. It’s not like BuzzFeed created lists. But it has popularised the form so effectively that it now features on homepages of everyone from the Huffington Post to… well, bloggers like me.
In short, with more than 200 million monthly visitors BuzzFeed is a convenient scapegoat.
I’m actually a big BuzzFeed fan and often turn to it when I’m bored or just want a quick undemanding read. Because that’s what listicles are. Undemanding.
All the content is conveniently chopped into tiny pieces your brain can swallow whole, like a family-sized bag of chips you mindlessly devour while watching Netflix.
And therein lies my issue with listicles. We live in a world where information is always just one click away. Anyone with access to the Internet – from heads of state to slum dwellers, like the ones I visited in Manila last year – has the possibility to get a world-class education, free of charge. Wikipedia is the Aristotle of the 21st century.
With all that information at our fingertips, you’d think we’d be the most insightful, introspective and intimidatingly intelligent generation to grace this planet. But no. We sit around staring at those same devices that promise enlightenment and use them to watch cat videos while worrying about the number of likes on our latest Instagram picture.
Are All Listicles Evil?
Spoiler alert: of course not. After all, how could a literary form be inherently bad? Yes, it’s possible to do listicles well and use the form as a carrier for really great content. One example of this is Wait But Why – a hilarious website which uses stick figures to talk about life.
At the onset of one of his posts, the blog’s author Tim Urban addresses this topic. “So we know a lot of people hate listicles and associate them with cheap, low-quality, traffic-driving, link-bait articles,” he writes.
“Over the last few years, I watched in horror as one of my favorite formats decided to prostitute itself all over the internet as the default format for lazy articles. Anyway the point is, A) I was doing listicles before they were cool, and B) A list headline doesn’t mean it can’t be a high-quality article, so C) Wait But Why will make a listicle when it’s the best format for that post, and don’t be mad at us cause it’s not what it looks like.”
Lists can be good or bad, and they have been a feature of human culture for centuries. Philosopher Umberto Eco goes as far as calling the list the origin of culture.
Eco writes: “It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible… And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists.”
And that’s exactly what we’re doing, in our own special way. We’re trying to sort through the insane amount of information at our fingertips in the easiest way possible, and lists are the obvious solution.
Why Is Everyone Using Listicles?
I would love to give you a long-winded pseudo-philosophical answer, but the reasoning is actually very simple. Listicles are popular and easy to write.
Why spend days crafting a masterpiece when you can put together a listicle in a few hours? A listicle which, generally speaking, will attract more readers than the aforementioned masterpiece!
I’ll be honest – I write listicles to increase traffic. Blogging is my full-time job and my income partly depends on how many readers I have.
Creatively pushing the envelope is scary no matter what, but when factors like money (and being able to pay your rent) get involved it becomes absolutely terrifying.
So, What Now?
Yes, it’s terrifying. But you know what? I don’t really care anymore. I don’t want Girl vs Globe to be just another outlet churning out posts that contribute nothing new to the reader.
No, I’m not going to denounce listicles and stop writing them once and for all. There is a time and a place for them, even here. They’re a great way to share travel advice, the best places to eat or fun content like “100 Productive Things To Do in PJs” or “99 Things To Do Instead of Growing Up“.
But I am going to cut back, a lot. Instead of just contributing to all the noise, I’m going to get a lot more creative. What does that mean? Simply put it means new ideas, fun concepts and lots of creative photoshoots.
The photoshoots mainly relate to food and fashion – something I’ve been dying to do for years. As you might already know, I started my first blog Sabina Supernova when I was 14 as a diary of all my outfits.
I eventually quit because I found it too shallow… but that’s just the way teenage me did it. There are many ways to cover fashion without being vapid and that’s exactly what I’m going to do!
I will also cover more subjects that require me to really think and really write. Remember the time I travelled around the world, reporting on development projects funded by the EU? Or my first-hand account of a traditional Moroccan hammam?
Those are the posts I’m most proud of… and I want to be able to take pride in my work. I want to show people my blog and feel confident, instead of half-apologising and saying things like “I’ve been so busy lately, my posts aren’t what they used to be”.
In short, I’m going to make Girl vs Globe feel more like me again and I’m sure you’ll find the process as liberating as I do. Thank you for joining me on this crazy journey and changing my life in the process!
tl;dr: I’m going to write fewer listicles and focus on creatively covering the things that matter to me – travel, fashion and food. I’ll start publishing a weekly recipe and outfit post, plus an article about travel, blogging or lifestyle. Yes, that means lots more content! Yay!
PS: In case you’ve missed it, I’ve also started a new multi-author website, Girls vs Globe. We only launched on May 25 and already have 49 contributors! Check it out and don’t forget to join our amazing Facebook group.
PPS: For an additional layer of irony I’ve included lots of gifs (all from wifflegif) in this post, BuzzFeed style.