I’ve read seven* articles this week that were simply one sentence dragged out into a webpage of content. The culprit was my trashy late-night date for life, Buzzfeed, currently exploring a Sally Morgan phase and predicting every facet of your existence by asking which shape of pasta you prefer (fusilli, if you must know).
I wouldn’t call sites like Buzzfeed or Mail Online ‘news outlets’ any more, they’re content producers, and they know we’re never satisfied. Even with pictures of Gwyneth Paltrow’s legs and Blake Lively’s sassy instagrams shoved down our guts we choke for more. We don’t want your dissertation; we want a thousand snippets of sauce and spectacle. I’m generalizing for the sake of being punchy, sue me, but the gist is ‘news’ articles have become shorter and simpler overall. Comment is favoured over investigative journalism, for better or for worse.
Our taste for quick entertainment has granted us an ocean of online materials, none of which we pay for, that’s so vast it outnumbers the people who engage with it. There’s just so much bloody stuff and no filter for it. Nowhere is this more apparent than the kingdom of YouTube.
YouTube can be summarised by a split between casual content, VEVO, marketing, and professional video making by ‘YouTubers’. An astounding number of people are able to make a living, even if temporarily, from producing YouTube content and building a brand that draws advertisers or sponsors. The most successful channels generally cover beauty, comedy, lifestyle, music and gaming. Their peer review system consists of the infamous comment section and the occasional feud or debate between different producers. It’s ineffective, and the standard of the most popular creative content is so bland and formulaic the platform has discredited itself to many. It feeds into the assumption that popular culture is worth little.
Bad content is the price you pay for good content produced by a free and open culture. The distinction between good and bad content is less and less clear, as assessment of quality is associated with cultural snobbery. I’m concerned readers will think I’m advocating for the policing of culture, some kind of critical authoritarianism, but nothing could be further from my point. I don’t have a point actually, and as this article is free, no one much cares.
On the more dangerous side, YouTube amasses communities of pseudo-scientists and diet/lifestyle fanatics who peddle their bullshit without challenge. The comment section is a chaotic cesspool that will drown any voices of reason, and though the internet can trash a reputation with vigour, it’s not so great at asking for a list of references.
I’m aware of the irony that I’m writing this as un-cited, ‘comment’ journalism. Fuck me – imagine if everything was academic. Whatever a soul is we’d lose it.
As always we come to the same conclusion: the internet sure is fun but it’s fucked up everything. It’s made a creative bubble that can’t sustain itself without engaging with capitalism. It’s made the consequences of bad content so few, that I can just end this article now without a proper conclusion. BRB watching Buzzfeed Unsolved.
*This is a lie; I don’t know how many it was; no one cares about facts any more; fuck Brexit.