Photographed by Ruby Yeh.
The very act of blogging about Michael Reid Roberts' delightful analysis of Upworthy headlines certainly feels like the pot calling the kettle black — that is, if the pot were DM'ing @kettle with the hashtag #isthenewblack.
We can hardly ignore the irony of aggregating a website's story about clickbait on another website, which itself is largely composed of aggregated content from other websites — even if that story is not about aggregating content per se, but rather the grammatical structure of and the reliance on essentially meaningless clichés in headlines that entice readers to click on aggregated content.
And, yes, we're guilty of using those headlines, too. We've asked you to "restore your faith in humanity." We've told you "you won't believe" what we're about to say next. We employ the word "literally" when we really mean "figuratively." (At least three dictionaries, however, would back us up on that one.) That doesn't make it right, but it also doesn't make it wrong. This is the Web 2.0 Wild West, and there are no rules in this town.
For all of his grammarian hauteur, even Roberts doesn't quite accuse Upworthy of doing anything necessarily bad. "Whatever loathing I feel for listicles and viral videos and their effects on my time and attention span," he writes, "I actually appreciate, even enjoy, the way they imbue their titles with such mystery and suspense."
Nor does he boil down — between his allusions to Heidegger and references poetic devices like catalexis — Upworthy's grammatical juju into some magic formula. Instead, he meditates on the role its headlines play in language and the ennui endemic to 21st-century existence. He asks, "Is Upworthy indirectly addressing a crisis of faith that internet users collectively feel?"