And I’m being very lenient when I use the term “read” here, because looking at GIFs of Adventure Time and Ron Swanson doesn’t really count as reading in my book.
(As a preface: the title of this article is obvious hyperbole, but is slightly misleading as well; I’m not going to blame the victim here. The title also serves to prove a point regarding setting up expectations later on, but mostly I just thought it was funny. I was originally going to post “can we just euthanize everyone who reads buzzfeed” as a Facebook status because I was tired of seeing people link to it, but I decided I should use this newfangled blog thing instead.)
I’ve had a long-standing beef with BuzzFeed that I’ve never really tried to articulate beyond the fact that I knew its existence bothered me. I would cringe anytime a link to a BuzzFeed “article” (again, I use the word “article” with much leniency) appeared in my Facebook feed, and I’d cringe even more when my morbid curiosity inevitably got the best me and I’d click the link.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that BuzzFeed is an extremely trashy website, but I understand the appeal behind occasionally reading or watching something that doesn’t take much thought. I mean, sometimes I listen to 2 Chainz, so who am I to judge? I might think BuzzFeed is worthless, but some people get enjoyment out of it, and that’s fine. It was one of those things that wasn’t worth my time to argue about and figured would eventually go away.
My stance on BuzzFeed changed entirely when I stumbled upon a link to an article titled “21 Jokes Only History Nerds Will Understand“. Take a moment to read it and let it all sink in…
Beyond finding everything the article embodies to be stupid on an almost surreal level (we’ll get to that a minute), it managed to legitimately piss me off. Usually when I talk about something “pissing me off,” it’s a colloquial exaggeration meaning that I thought something was slightly irritating, but I remained unfazed. Here, when I say this article “pissed me off,” I mean that reading it was the sole catalyst in perpetuating my bad mood. The fact that memories of this article now exist in my brain genuinely made my day worse.
Do you know what the Boston Tea Party is? What about what the Roman numeral “5″ looks like? Have you heard of Karl Marx, even if you don’t know much about him? If you answered yes to all three questions, then congratulations! According to BuzzFeed, you probably deserve a B.A. in history! Beyond the fact that most of these jokes only require general knowledge, when you break them down, they’re less about history and more about puns and various other forms of wordplay. Obviously, it helps to understand the historical context, but take a look at the Karl Marx ‘yo mama joke again:
I have a fairly basic knowledge of history and don’t know much about Marxism, but your average 15-year-old could use the information given to deduce that a Marxist Utopia would be a society without a class system, among other things (hence, comparing your “classless” mother to one). I don’t think this is a very difficult connection to make as long as you know the definition of the words “classless” and “utopia” and know that Marxism is Some Sort of Concept That Exists.
Moreover, it’s not the jokes themselves that made me mad (to be honest, I’m actually rather fond of the Karl Marx ‘yo mama joke), but the way in which the title of the article sets up expectations for the reader. Just as the title of this post sets you up to believe that I think all people who read BuzzFeed are worthless (I don’t), it’s telling you that, unless you are knowledgeable enough about history to the point that you’re “nerdy” (ie, smart), you’re not going to be able to understand these jokes.
Is the level of historical knowledge required to comprehend these jokes really obscure and obsessive enough to be deemed “nerdy”? I’m honestly kind of offended that the bar is set so low it’s assumed I won’t be able to “understand” them due to their complexity. Even though thinking about all of this put me in a sour mood, it also allowed me to pinpoint exactly why I hold such a disdain for BuzzFeed: it’s as if the entire website operates under the assumption that it’s trendy to be stupid, lazy, and incompetent.
It didn’t take much searching to find more classic BuzzFeed material like “24 Basic Life Activities You’re Too Lazy To Accomplish” and “27 Everyday Decisions That Twentysomethings Are Really Bad At Making” (in the case of the former, all I had to do was click the name of the author who wrote the history joke article). Nevermind that these articles are essentially the same in concept: some of their list items are exactly the same, which is pretty telling of the image they’re trying to portray.
Articles like these perpetuate this weird societal notion among “twentysomethings” that we’re expected to not want to learn and to have poor time management skills. People will roll their eyes at you when you say you finished an assignment a week early, but will almost go so far as to brag about how much they procrastinate. When people call themselves “procrastinators,” the word holds this strange weight of false-self-deprecation, similarly to when a drunk girl at a bar tells you she’s “a total geek” because she’s seen every episode of LOST or when someone says they’re “addicted” to white cheddar popcorn.
When I look at these articles, all I see a list of things my past and present roommates have done that pissed me off. Not that I’m not guilty of a lot of those things too, but if this is the type of person I’m supposed to be at 22, I don’t want to be 22 anymore. I don’t think society needs anymore encouragement to lower expectations in terms of intelligence or motivation.
The icing on the cake is that BuzzFeed isn’t even very funny. It’s the cheapest, most transparent form of humor out there; it’s the type of website where you’ll find a dated Justin Beiber joke in every other article (I almost said “unfunny Justin Beiber joke,” but that implies that there are funny ones in the first place). You know that friend you have on Facebook who never has anything interesting to say, but will post painfully generic status updates like “Pulp Fiction is awesome!” so people will “like” his posts? BuzzFeed is like that friend, except he’s an entire website and there are people who would care if he stopped posting.