Oh my. Little more galling than the fact that no one wants to read an article anymore unless it’s a list, is the very real possibility that online editors purposefully assign asinine story ideas to draw rage traffic. People will read the articles they have been warned are base, ill-researched, or destructively presumptive because those articles are really just a few lines of text, divided by glossy stock photos. We invest a few minutes, get miffed, and forward the link angrily on to justify our wasted time and state of being missed; they get page views. Air tight.
Fully acknowledging I am just playing into the system by doing so, here’s a particularly ripe example of the racket.
A few days ago, HuffPo posted a list of “30 Places to go before you’re 30” in their Facebook-coffee-break-ready “Destinations” section. The sheer notion that any list that must be completed by age 30 could be a bucket list brought on the swell of balking commenters. Every single comment on the first page is someone who’s pissed about the story, mostly citing the impossibility of anyone ever visiting these spots on the globe before thirty, let alone in a lifetime. The system is working.
Besides the fact that the title was clearly drafted by someone who prioritizes matchy-matchy sentences over journalistic acuity, the story is littered with cringe-worthy moments.
This first sentence, “Traveling young is important because it shapes your worldview,” is unbearably trite and generalized, and links to
a) an HP article that steadfastly declares “Finances are rarely a prohibiting factor in travel” (Riiiiight, because everyone who travels young is just a bro hitchiking around with no fear of being raped, has enough cash for a passport, visa, and the plane ticket across the world before they start couchsurfing, and doesn’t have an extended family whose livelihood would be seriously hurt by a wage gap of a few months. Thanks for clearing that up.)
and b) another good ole HP article highly recommending you visit a “third world country” because it will “build character” and make you feel better about life when you get back to your “modern luxuries.” (Because traveling is just about YOU, not anyone else, anywhere else, ever.)
Then we get into the “ultimate soul-searching bucket list.” Here are the choice tidbits:
27. Dharavi in Mumbai, India "One of the largest slums in the world, this friendly community is a square-mile pocket of poverty in India’s booming economic center." Translation: Look at the poor people! Don’t worry, they’ll be nice to you!
23. The Washington Monument observation deck in Washington, D.C. "Sure our country is defunct sometimes, but it gave you the freedom to be.” Translation: Our country gave you the freedom to be ignorant and appropriating. Now go spread that attitude around the globe, you little rascal you!
22. The Rhino Charge in Nairobi, Kenya "Every year, extreme drivers embark on a 10-hour, off-road race through the savannah to fundraise for animal conservation." Translation: You don’t have to feel bad about wreaking havoc on the environment if you raise money while doing it! Cuz anyway no one likes to do charity if they can’t get something out of it, amiright?
19. Disney World in Florida “Because soon you’re gonna have to bring your kids with you, and they’re not going to stop for a beer break.” Translation: This article funded by Disney Corp.
17. Rio Upano in Ecuador “Whitewater raft through the rainforest and see what it’s like to grow up beside toucans in a native tribe.” Translation: Look at the natives! But be sure to avoid the massive oil pits Texaco left a decade ago; they are a bummer. Hey, look, funny birds!
14. Nowhere, Spain “Each year, attendees at the desert festival design their own society based on ‘creative freedom.’” Translation: When in doubt, just find a new Burning Man.
13. Bernauer Strasse in Berlin, Germany “When the Berlin Wall first made one side of this residential street part of Soviet East Berlin, people died trying to jump out their windows to a free neighborhood on the other side. It’s an odd and important contrast to modern Berlin’s hipster-filled streets. CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story indicated that the Berlin Wall was built by Nazi Germany. In fact, it was built by the Communists during the Cold War.” Translation: Did you know there was this weird wall in Berlin before all your artist friends started moving there? Did you? People DIED. Apparently from windows, but I dunno. I think it had something to do with the Nazis. No wait, that was something different. The Communists. Anyway, it’s dark.
9. The Dead Sea in Jordan “With a Biblical history and a perch in the midst of modern conflict, this could be the most historic (and saltiest!) body of water on Earth.” Translation: Something important happened here. Just watch out for all the people around there fighting about… um, something old.
7. The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague, Czech Republic "Stacks of graves are layered over each other, so nobody knows exactly how many people are — or who exactly is — buried here. That’s intense." Translation: OK, now I KNOW this place has to do with the Nazis. Sadsville.
5. Havana, Cuba "Get a glimpse of what happens when a culture hits the pause button." Translation: Who knows why (and who really cares!) but there are all these old cars in Cuba.
4. Hitachi Seaside Park, Japan “These zany, Seuss-like fields will reintroduce you to your zany little kid self.” Translation: Remember, the most important thing about traveling is to just be zany, HAVE FUN, don’t think too much, and instagram regularly. Also, be zany.