This month, I’ve committed myself to updating PTC on a much more regular basis. In classic “12 Days of Christmas” style, I’ll be churning out 12 new posts here (a few will be exclusively available to those who donate to my Patreon, so… check that out).
To kick things off, here’s a quick list of phrases and media strategies I’d like to see retired at the close of 2014. Now, obviously, a large portion of this is very tongue-in-cheek (you can close the open e-mail box you’ve got ready to hurl outrage my way), and none of this really bothers me all that much. Still, I don’t know about you, but I’m just over these:
“Break the internet”
In November, Paper Mag posted a picture of Kim Kardashian, promising to “Break the Internet.” Really, the whole thing seemed to be one part pandering and one part snark. The magazine’s editors admit as much, writing, “Our 2014 Art Issue is an art project in and of itself, in which we explore, deconstruct and obsess over the theme of attention: BREAK THE INTERNET.”
“Break the internet” sounds like something my 89-year-old grandmother might say or ask me to fix (I’m just kidding; she’s old school and doesn’t have an internet connection). Of course, I realize that when someone says that someone or something “broke the internet,” they’re not being literal. Even so, everytime I hear the term, I can’t help but remember the late Senator Ted Stevens’ “series of tubes” speech.
[blockquote source=””]Ten movies streaming across that, that Internet, and what happens to your own personal Internet? I just the other day got… an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday. I got it yesterday [Tuesday]. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially. […] They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes. And if you don’t understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it’s going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.[/blockquote]
You don’t want to be like Ted Stevens, do you?
“Win the internet” and other online slang
Much like the previous entry, “win the internet” (or variations thereon) sounds like something straight from an IRC chat log, and according to Know Your Meme, that’s pretty much the case:
[blockquote source=”Know Your Meme”]The earliest usage of “You Win the Internet” can be traced back to a discussion thread posted on October 26, 2004 on SomethingAwful’s FYAD forum as documented in this archived text file.
According to the comments section in a WebSnark article posted in February 2006, “You Win the Internet” actually stems from another popular comment made by a user known as “bombscare” in IRC chatroom circa 2002.[/blockquote]
Since then, I’ve seen this used by media professionals as another way of saying they “won the news cycle.” In April, Gawker editor Max Read sent out a memo to staff writers with a list of banned words and a set of new style rules.
[blockquote source=”Poynter”]We used to make an effort to avoid [internet slang], and now I see us all falling back into the habit. We want to sound like regular adult human beings, not Buzzfeed writers or Reddit commenters. Therefore: No “epic.” No “pwn.” No “+1.” No “derp.” No “this”/”this just happened.” No “OMG.” No “WTF.” No “lulz.” No “FTW.” No “win.” No “amazeballs.” And so on. Nothing will ever “win the internet” on Gawker. As with all rules there are exceptions. Err on the side of the Times, not XOJane.[/blockquote]
“Hey, how can I make this opinion/editorial/op-ed sound more intellectual? Ah, I’ll call it a ‘think piece.’” — Fictional writer living in my subconscious
Define ‘think piece.’ Define ‘editorial.’ Are they pretty much the same thing? Yeah. The term has been around since the 1930s, but in recent years, it’s become a bit of a pejorative. Earlier this year, David Haglund wrote a piece for Slate, aptly titled, “Why ‘Think Piece’ Is Pejorative,” in which he highlights the uptick in use of the term and how it is becoming more and more of an insult.
[blockquote source=”Slate”]Peruse Twitter at any time of the day or night, and you’ll find people making think piece jokes. The thrust of most of these jokes is that there are simply too many think pieces—which, by the way, are defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as articles “containing discussion, analysis, or opinion, as opposed to fact or news.” As the satirical Twitter feed @ProfJeffJarvis put it recently: “Newton’s law 2014: for every thinkpiece, there will be an equal and opposite thinkpiece.” Thanks to the Internet, there are, one assumes, more think pieces published nowadays than at any previous point in history, as print publications with limited column inches have given way to Web outlets hungry for content.[/blockquote]
Overtly click-bait-y headlines
I follow my local NBC affiliate on Facebook. For a while, they were a great source of information for quick updates on Chicago news. I’d scroll through Facebook, and I’d be able to quickly learn who the Bears just signed, what Rahm Emanuel’s done now, crime updates, and so on. Then, earlier this year, they began using intentionally vague descriptors designed to force you to click through to their slow, poorly-functioning mobile site.
Once again, local NBC affiliate, it’s not your job to give “hints” about the news, it’s to deliver the news. pic.twitter.com/FrVR0zmCj5
— Parker Marie Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) August 19, 2014
I get it. You want users to actually click through to the story. Getting news should require that we jump through as few hoops as possible. “Hinting” at something or running with some “You’ll never guess what happens next” language is just outright pandering. I’m more likely to engage with a link if you tell me what’s in there; instead, I just end up feeling annoyed.
Posts made almost entirely out of GIFs
Sometimes, a GIF is the perfect way to illustrate one’s feelings at a given moment. They’re a quick substitute for short video, and are often pretty fun. Like all good things, however, they need to be used in moderation. When I click a link and I’m suddenly bombarded with 20 GIFs loading up, part of me wants to just preemptively close the tab for the sake of not having to deal with it.
Last year, someone started the amazing Tumblr, “BuzzFeed Articles Without the GIFs,” illustrating some of the site’s more blatant reliance on the pretty moving images over, you know, actual words. Now, obviously, not all (or even most) BuzzFeed articles are like that. In fact, some of the best reporting I’ve ever read been on BuzzFeed.
Here are a few samples.
[blockquote source=”BuzzFeed Articles Without the GIFs”]21 Oddly Satisfying GIFs You Won’t Be Able to Stop Watching
Yeah! Cut that dough! Slice that paper, you sharp little knife, you! Fit that joint! Fit it! R! R! R! R! Make that bowl! Make it all night long! Yeah, candle! Burn! Smash, bullet! Smash like your little life depends on it! Yeah, roll it up. Roll that ice cream UP! YIP! YIP! YIP! YIPYIPYIP! Damn, pen! Keep writing! I’ve never felt this way towards a frisbee before. Yeah, pop tarts. Do it! Solder my heart. Solder it good. Twiiiiiiiist, pretzel. TWIST! TWIST! OMG! Paper airplane, you are a rascal. Yes, frisbee! Get it! Don’t you ever stop, pasta! Slice that paper like it deserves to be sliced! WOOO!!!
This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This.[/blockquote]
Even yours truly has fallen victim to the siren song that is a GIF-heavy post, it’s true. Still, what’s neat on occasion can be annoying in excess.