BuzzFeed Email Newsletters, Reviewed

Attention must be paid to the media outlet's morning messages.

Every morning, BuzzFeed sends out a morning newsletter, BuzzFeed Today. They are written by an anonymous author, who is surely one of the most beguiling figures in modern literature. Below, a first consideration of some works from his or her impressive oeuvre.

BuzzFeed. Grin to Win. Email message. 13 January 2015.

Like most of the BuzzFeed author’s work, the message takes the form of an insane man’s bibliography. Bullet point follows bullet point, each seeming at first to have no relation to the next. But just as we can decipher a grocery list to discover the meal it portends, we can see the themes that lurk in these proto-casseroles.

This particular missive focuses on how the body must always tragically defy the mind: “41 Things That Will Make You Grin Like An Absolute Fool,” it begins. “It doesn't matter how much of a fool you look like—there are some things you just HAVE to grin at.” This is a threat.

Directly beneath, the author gestures to our essential and material vulnerability, and how easily it can be altered by substances:  

The Golden Globes aren't just about awards. They're also about partying. So we breathalyzed celebs on the red carpet to see who parties the hardest.

(To my mind, these precious “globes” recalled none other than Donne…)

I am a little world made cunningly
Of elements and an angelic sprite,
But black sin hath betray'd to endless night
My world's both parts, and oh both parts must die.

The text descends further into pessimism. “How often do you really need to shower?,” it asks. It veers into the gendered: “Being the first to get your period” is something “that [only] girls had to worry about growing up.” And ultimately it takes a dim view of the human situation itself, chiding the reader:

BuzzFeed. That’s How You Do It. Email message. 7 January 2015.

This brief concerns historicity, femininity, and the nature of the vulgar: “12 Historical Women Who Gave No F*cks,” it announces at top. A picture of Ada Lovelace—computational savant and Lord Byron’s only legitimate daughter—gazes out at the reader. And picking up on Byron, the author moves to consider men-as-seen-by-women. There is a link to Justin Bieber’s shirtless Calvin Klein shoot and a celebration of “hilariously on-point Dad attire.” But, as if in warning to those leered-at men, the message closes with a bizarre, menacing turn:

And finally: What kind of animal is looking at you? Seriously, do NOT move.

BuzzFeed. Shut It Down. Email message. 10 January 2015.

“Shut it down,” shouts the subject line. It is unclear what “it” the author means—perhaps capitalism? The actual text of the newsletter again concerns seeing and being seen. “The 22 Most Painfully Awkward Things That Have Ever Happened On TV,” it starts. The author then takes a particular interest in celebrity, rattling off:

  • “Sam Smith’s boyfriend caught him singing Beyoncé in the shower.”
  • “Want to know the secret to taking a good picture? Just whisper the word ‘prune’ to yourself. It's what Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen do.
  • “This woman made her husband cry by telling him she was pregnant in a photo booth. The result was adorable.

Yet even as it traffics in tropes of fame and celebrity, the text expresses disappointment at them. “Every country song is exactly the same,” the author laments, before recalling a topic from just days before: “Remember that Justin Bieber Calvin Klein ad?” But now he or she is knowing, aloof: “Surprise surprise — it was Photoshopped.

Like a true Romantic, the BuzzFeed author veers between intense passions. Yet nothing seems to demoralize him or her into silence. There is always a new update. Even as one day’s epistle warns that no one should be trusted, the next offers “26 Pictures That Will Give You Hope For The Future.”

We cannot ignore, however, the author’s howls for help. Who can put out of mind its clashing subject lines on Christmas Eve—“You Can’t Handle The Truth”—and on Boxing Day—“The More You Know”? Or, even more starkly, its subject from December 27, 2014: “WHY!?!”, followed by its subject the very next day: “WHY”?
Why indeed.