Off the Feed: The buzz behind BuzzFeed videos

Vincent Ta/HIGHLANDER
Vincent Ta/HIGHLANDER

Watching BuzzFeed videos is a lot like eating potato chips — one is never enough and there’s always an overwhelming sense of guilt after a binge. However, regardless of how much time they waste and little actual benefit they impart, these videos are wildly popular and generally garner over half-a-million views.

These videos, which range from quirky comedy sketches and elaborate pseudo-documentaries to simpler lists and taste-tests, have become admirably lucrative. They garner viewers from around the globe and have even spawned home bases in countries like Australia and India. Nowadays, many of their videos are sponsored by major brands. Their employees have become micro-celebrities with their own mini-series and paid appearances outside of the virtual world.

Perhaps these videos are so popular because they appeal to some underlying human condition, such as short attention spans. In fact, a study conducted by Microsoft discovered that our ability to focus on a task is less than that of a humble goldfish. Despite the variety and seemingly random genres BuzzFeed covers, a common theme among these videos is that they are all short — none of them go over 20 minutes. These videos are enticing because they don’t seem like a huge time investment. They provide instant gratification for whatever information or entertainment that we are seeking. However, one video could easily be the trapdoor into an inescapable rabbit hole.

BuzzFeed videos also feed into people’s narcissistic side. Most of their content doesn’t impart anything mind-blowing or revolutionary — in fact they often feature aspects of life that are commonplace. Since the videos are so relatable, they can make people feel special that there are aspects of their life noteworthy enough to be featured online. Videos of this genre can probably be comforting to people who feel out of place — seeing other people relate to their quirks can reassure them they’re not alone.

Alternatively, BuzzFeed also allows viewers to live vicariously through their videos. Series like the “Try Guys,” “Test Friends” and “Ladylike” feature people trying out products, taking on new experiences and participating in challenges that the average person probably doesn’t have access to or the courage to attempt. Watching these people get drunk, suffer, fail and succeed not only broadens the audience’s perspective without putting them in harm’s way, but it also creates an illusion of a connection with the people in the videos. BuzzFeed videos provide viewers the same feeling of watching a riveting television show, except it’s reality and the characters are more relatable.

BuzzFeed’s employees are just average joes with awesome jobs. When people enjoy what they do, it translates into what they produce which is then generally well-received by their audience. Perhaps the greatest reason why their videos are so popular is that they’re just good fun. These short videos offer a reprieve from the stresses of daily life and can encourage its viewers to be open to new experiences.

 

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