I’m going to start with a disclaimer – I do enjoy Buzzfeed. Sometimes when I get home from a long day of work or class I actually do enjoy looking at 43 pictures of pugs in cute hats, purely for the mindlessness of it. I’m not ashamed. I wouldn’t exactly call it Pulitzer material, but unlike many journalists, I can at least appreciate, if not admire, that they have tapped into something that brings them millions upon millions of hits – relatability.
This relatability is brilliant, simple and effective – everyone wants to look at something they feel like inexplicably applies perfectly to their own lives. Humans are inherently selfish. If it’s about me, I want to read it. You’re lying if you say you’ve never hyperventilated slightly when you see something on “22 things people who go to an urban college campus do” that hits just a little too close to home, or have never posted a list to your friend’s wall saying something along the lines of “#2, #8, #103, SO us.” I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. Relatability – it works.
But here’s my problem with Buzzfeed, Thought Catalog, Lifehack, and any of the other copy-cat list makers that seem to be popping up – stop trying to tell me what the “right way to happiness” is or the “things I need to stop doing to myself” or “things I need to do more often” – you’ve taken something beautiful and turned it into a warped sense of therapeutic inspirationalism. It’s ridiculous. And moreover, it’s wrong. There is no right way to happiness, or a finite list of things we should or shouldn’t make ourselves feel. You can’t just check off parts of your life to make you a better person the way you’d check off a grocery list to better fill your fridge. Life doesn’t work that way, and neither does happiness. And what’s worse, Buzzfeed purports their popularity to make is seem like “We have the answers – this is the way.” And I’m telling you, it’s not.
I have no doubt that their intentions are in the right place, but the manipulation of these lists to make you think “that is so right, I need to do that and I will live a more fulfilling life” is simply clever wordplay. Take for example the list entitled “14 Little Things to Stop Beating Yourself Up About“, accompanied by it’s eerily similar friends “12 Things We Need to Stop Telling Ourselves” and “30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself“. All say similar things – it’s okay to laze on your couch, and eat and drink things without feeling guilty, don’t hang out with people you don’t like out of obligation, don’t make yourself feel bad for no reason- all good points. I understand. But then we move to the complimentary “13 Things to Remember When Life Get’s Rough” and “30 Things You Should Do for Yourself” and their sister lists and suddenly it’s all, get off the couch! Save your money, go out, learn to put up with people you don’t like, invest in a personal trainer and get to the office because if you don’t work toward your goals now you will never achieve them. First, they contradict, which for anyone who legitimately gets advice from Buzzfeed, Lifehack, Thought Catalog etc. must be rather confusing. Treat myself or push myself? Stand up to my shitty boss or learn that putting up with her is life and will help me in the long run? Go out tonight because I’ll never be as young as I am right now, or stop partying like it’s freshman year and grow up? To put it graciously, I suppose these types of list articles are here to inspire you, but all they end up doing is give you this false sense that they have the answers. These aren’t answers- these are cheesy, ambiguous statements with numbers next to them and a clever title.
In the end, I suppose we really can’t solely blame the list makers. Maybe it’s up to us to stop relying on the god forsaken internet to solve our problems. But bottom line, Buzzfeed, stop. Stop trying to be my therapist, stop telling me what will make me happy and what I’m doing wrong that’s making me unhappy, because you don’t have the answers. Nobody does. Stick to what you know – 23 pictures of David Beckham in a white t-shirt, clever uses for baking soda and reasons why I should drink more wine.