by The Concessionist
The Concessionist gives advice each weekend about the sordid choices of real life. Trouble? Write today.
I hate myself because I can’t work for BuzzFeed. I’m sure you think this is some kind of joke since Awl editors Mr. Herrman and Mr. Buchanan diss it all the time (despite founding the tech vertical there — weird) and lots of people sneer at it but it’s the truth.
BuzzFeed is the most successful media company of our time. BuzzFeed is the future of the media business. BuzzFeed is the most widely recognized media brand among young people and will inevitably eclipse the major media organizations and one day become a super-hegemonic media power the likes of which we’ve never seen. They’re past being just a website/media organization. They’re a cultural institution. BuzzFeed is so powerful they can make the president use a selfie stick. Digiday, Adweek, and every other media rag writes about BuzzFeed’s new innovations every single day. And BuzzFeed is in perpetual growth mode. They hardly ever fire anyone (save for an unlucky few) and are ALWAYS making huge hires. Seems like every time I check an awesome person’s Twitter bio it’s changed to “Staff writer at BuzzFeed” or “Editor at BuzzFeed’ or whatever. BuzzFeed is the hottest entertainment/news/advertising/whatever property on earth right now. Everyone is talking about it and everyone (even the celebrities) reads it. Even the fact that you might answer this is a testament to how popular they are. Would you answer this if I was having an existential breakdown over Mother Jones or the Washington Post? How can you feel good about yourself if you don’t work for such a massive, popular, successful company?
The worst part is that I almost did work for them! I came really close to getting an editor position there a few years ago — before they were famous and huge. They didn’t hire me though (I told them I didn’t want to write more clickbait than substance — what the fuck was I thinking?). I applied there a few more times over the last several years and never got another series of interviews. The people they hired instead are now HUGE there — a big deal in the company and on (media) Twitter too. Like just think about getting hired there in 2011/2012 and now being one of the most important people in the entire media world and getting an interview with literally whoever you want (like imagine being able to host a BuzzFeed Brews with Chris Pratt where before you couldn’t get an interview with anyone) because you’re working for the hottest brand. Think of all the sycophants and all the Twitter followers and all the swag and every other perk of working there. Think about how amazing it must be. Now compare it to the rest of the industry…
How can I ever feel good about myself or my life knowing I’ll never have any what I described? That I fucked up the biggest opportunity I’ll ever have? That I could’ve been a figure of massive importance in the media industry but instead I’m just a nobody — at least compared to any BuzzFeed editorial staffer. I feel like Eric Stoltz after getting fired and replaced by Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. Fox became a superstar. Stotlz did Anaconda — not far off from what I’m doing in terms of abject shittiness. I work at one of the biggest websites in the world, true, but I’m still not happy because working in the NYC media is soul-draining. The only reason to read the site I work for is if you’ve read everything on BuzzFeed already and are still bored at work (like we’re literally a BuzzFeed clone despite having started years before BuzzFeed). So myself and my whole company pretty much are just people who aren’t good enough at getting traffic to work at BuzzFeed.
Part (just PART) of the reason I feel this way is because media culture is just so fucked up and horrible. It’s so status-obsessed that I literally don’t know what to do. It’s making me hate myself. If you’re not part of the main media Twitter clique (the people who get custom-made twitter avatars from @darth — that clique) then what’s the point of even being part of the media? It’s just so hard to shake the desire to be these people (both BuzzFeed people and famous Internet people). Like if you can’t be Mallory Ortberg, Lindsey Adler, Gabby Dunn, or Amber Gordon (or like dozens of other super popular people) then what’s the point in even doing this? This business (a boy’s club, still) is hard enough for a woman but it’s even harder when you’re not social and not good at networking. Yet that seems to be the only skill that matters here — that and producing as many pageviews as possible regardless of ethics or quality. I hate myself for being some second-rate content regurgitator and listicle-producer but what else can I do?
I just… I hate this — my life. I hate living where I do (where literally every other media person lives, take a guess). I hate the media’s culture. I hate the media in general. I didn’t used to but working in it for the last few years has taught me to. I mean this business is so fucked up and I don’t understand how anyone could say otherwise… unless they work at BuzzFeed where literally everything is perfect and the industry is in great shape because you get free shit, never get fired, traffic is always going up, and the money never ends. But at the same time, I majored in this (journalism) and basically became obsessed with this to the point where I don’t know how to do anything else, and I’d certainly NEVER want to work in advertising or PR where it’s probably even worse. I don’t even know what else I’m interested in though. I just know that I devoted my life to a craft I hate and to a business that’s corrupt, insane, insensitive, sexist, and demeaning (unless you work for…).
So yeah, these problems — hating the life of a media person, hating what we’re forced to do in general, and hating myself for not working for BuzzFeed — are all sort of linked together. I know I’m taking a risk by writing this to you, but I don’t think anyone who doesn’t “get” the Internet life could help. I wish I never discovered a career in media. All it got me was a some shitty, cockroach-infested apartment that’s no bigger than a fucking broom closet and an always-increasing pageview quota. Here’s some #AdviceforYoungJournalists: Run.
I Don’t Work at BuzzFeed
Hi, I Don’t Work….
Let’s all take two minutes and just breathe, because this letter is so intense it makes my three remaining wisdom teeth hurt. Mandatory meditation break.
Okay. We’re back.
YOU’RE FUCKED AND YOU NEED TO STOP DROP AND ROLL YOURSELF BACK TO SANITY.
No but for real.
YOU ARE IN TROUBLE.
I’m saying that with love I promise but. No one should feel this way about anything basically ever. Certainly not anything that has a paycheck attached to it. Like it would be okay to feel 50% of this way about a broken engagement, MAYBE, or like, never having hugged a dolphin. But you are waking up in a Groundhog Day of spiritual self-murder over a WEBSITE. You are sitting there SMOLDERING over a bunch of dumb 26-year-olds with blog jobs, half of whom are going to get fired or quit over the next couple years.
People at BuzzFeed are going to read this letter and be genuinely horrified. Say what you will about those little list-making monsters, at least they’re somewhat empathetic as human beings.
And I do get it, mostly. The thing is, you make one wrong follow on Twitter, and suddenly you’re inside BuzzFeed’s self-congratulatory Dutch oven. It’s weird and irritating that BuzzFeed staffers tweet about themselves and each other so much! They DON’T NEED TO. Twitter sends them no real traffic in the aggregate, and so it’s just grandstanding and showboating. But people tweet about work and stuff. That’s natural. Is it mildly irritating? Sure, but big deal! (I know, when they go on one of their defensive Twitter streaks about some article that dares to criticize them, it’s totally ridiculous. Like, YOU’LL BE FINE GUYS, DON’T WORRY. And yeah, here is the one thing I’ve learned about startups in my life: Don’t spend a lot of time defending the place you work unless you’re accruing equity.)
But this isn’t too harmful. Except… when it is. Like if you’re fragile. And self-torturing. And then! All those tweets are arms emerging from the hallways to grab at your crazy hair. And you can hear them all laughing at you while you run sobbing towards your job at the, um, I’m guessing The Ruffington Most?
Your idea about “media life” or whatever is so beyond. You’ve lost all perspective. There is no such thing. Like if you see five people on Twitter who hang out together once in a while… TRUST ME, that “scene” will pass. You need to go hang out with some bond traders or cab drivers or dog walkers.
But this is not really your fault. Financial insecurity, weird social media side effects, and the complete lack of such a thing as “the second job” in web publishing conspire to RUIN MINDS. Seriously, ask yourself: where do web writers go next, hmm? How many times have you seen someone make a non-lateral job move? Maybe five times? Ask any Gawker Media returnee! Or ask anyone who’s been writing for Gawker for four+ years! Where do BuzzFeed writers go next? WHO KNOWS! We may literally never find out.
So you’re getting all this false information. You need to turn the flow off. Unfollow everyone. Start over. Call your mother if you have one. Get a houseplant. Go to a museum. You’ve been brainwashed.
BuzzFeed is just an alternate world version of the Los Angeles Times — if, instead of being purchased by the stupid Tribune company, the Times had instead itself created Paramount Pictures, and then thrived. Then it would be a robust daily tearsheet attached to a real business. BuzzFeed — as we know it in New York — is currently organized pretty much like any newspaper of the 1960s was. (Possibly also BuzzFeed is even more like the newspapers of the 1860s even!) Either way, it is surprisingly old-fashioned. My friend Mark describes it as being identical to the old Philadelphia Inquirer. But from New York, real-power BuzzFeed is nearly invisible. Future BuzzFeed is dawning over the western horizon. BuzzFeed the web publication — totally random stupid “what color is this dress” traffic be darned — barely matters.
And one thing that’s relevant about your letter is that you’re not desperate to go work with Ze Frank and company in Los Angeles. If you really want to be on the forefront of cool-kid journalism, you should be getting your asshole steamed on video with Matt Stopera.
What’s more, why don’t you feel this way about the BBC? If you love journalism and world-wide impact so much, why aren’t you killing yourself trying to work there?
I bet you sleep with your phone and as you roll over each morning your hand slides under your pillow and as your eyes barely open you’re already pulling down to refresh your Twitter. That needs to stop now. You are CONFUSED about what is going on here. A bunch of assholes tweeting the highlights of their Best Life and Funnest Night Out is not an accurate representation of what is going on inside their own shitty apartments. Their breakups, their alcohol dependencies, their whatevers, their totally human experience of suffering.
You can be jealous of Mallory Ortberg (HEY LADY) and those other people you named that I’ve never heard of all you want, and that’s totally fair, but like, she’s sweating her ass off on her work until her bountiful hair goes limp at least four nights a week. Even though she and Roxane Gay seem to be able to tweet 20,000 times a day (and squeeze in a couple Ina Garten episodes too?), they’re still super-humanly productive. That’s because they’re WORKING AT IT.
Also, don’t be too jealous. I can promise you they do not feel good every day. And the coming burnout is much worse.
AND ALSO? You’re still talking about a bunch of POOR PEOPLE. Like these aren’t people with any authority or money, in any real terms. If you’re going to be consumed with envy, at least pick someone rich who doesn’t have to work her ass off! Be mad about those people at Vanity Fair that no one ever talks about who have TWO assistants! (What do you even do with two assistants!)
And then also I hear in your letter that this winter was hard on all of us. It was depressing and long and unfortunate. I had a psychically hard time with it too! Like, what am I doing on this planet as I get older? Why can’t people see through the motives of the most ambitious hacks around me? And also right… WHY DO I CARE? You take your eyes off the road, then you’re watching everyone’s business… EXCEPT YOUR OWN.
And what the fuck was I doing while looking over at the next lane??? Yeah, I was working, sometimes pretty hard, but I wasn’t publishing anything memorable. I wasn’t making anything good. I wasn’t doing anything at work that a bunch of other people and/or cyborgs possibly couldn’t have done. I have a pile of unfinished pieces that I don’t know what to do with, and maybe should just abandon. And what good reporting have I done this winter? NONE. What have I stayed up late into the night with, sweating bullets? NOT MUCH.
I’d ask the same of you.
There’s no doubt that Ben, Shani and Doree at BuzzFeed keep a list of people they’d love to hire and also have a list of people that they’re cold on. Even if they don’t know it! That’s how human minds work. “Oh her? Hmm, what’s she done recently….” Are they not impressed with you? You must not be very impressive, because some real fucking idiots work there! And since you care about competition so much, why aren’t you competing?
If you’re reapplying and they won’t hire you, it most likely means you haven’t done anything memorable. You’re the one with the incredibly limited — if logical! — dream of working at BuzzFeed. If you can’t make something on the Internet that makes them pay attention to you, then you shouldn’t work there and you should go get a MUCH BETTER DREAM. Like go work at a cat shelter. In their eyes, you’re just another smart angsty white woman with cute hair and a good college degree. DO YOURSELF BETTER.
If this is the battle you want to win, then strap on your ice axes and get to hacking. Turn that rage and bitterness into ACTION, not self-hatred.
Or don’t. But please. Detox. Throw your phone in the fucking East River. DELETE YOUR TWITTER. At the very least unfollow everyone and rebuild. And always remember — at least you’re not writing sponsored content for a living! Because lots of young people with dreams and journalism degrees are. And even that isn’t enough to send them into the torment you’ve made for yourself. They’re happy! And you’re a hot mess. Don’t do yourself like that.
Here’s the good news. You convinced me that I should take a week off later this month and then come back refreshed and ready to be my best self (lol). So if nobody else got anything out of this, at least I did!
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• How to Make Your Girlfriend Like You (Again)
• How Do I Live Through Getting Screwed At Work?
• Help My Friend Is A Snob!
• How To Share Feelings With Other Human Beings
The Concessionist is an adult human in New York City who is somewhat worn down and willing to make a good number of sacrifices for a peaceful life. Is it decision fatigue? Or just ennui? That’s probably a question for a psychiatrist. Anything else, ask me.