When I was a kid, I watched a show called America's Funniest Home Videos. It was like YouTube but for the VHS generation. On every episode, Bob Saget would show video clips sent in from families across the country in which something amusing would happen, like someone falling down stairs or a baby spitting up his mashed potatoes. But in addition to showing the clip, Saget would narrate the clip from the perspective of the stairs victim or the baby, adding sound effects along the way. Thus, if you were too slow to catch why someone falling down stairs was funny without narration and sound effects, Saget would let you know why you should laugh. And then the studio audience would laugh as well, in case you missed your cue.
Upworthy is the America's Funniest Home Videos of liberalism.
If you're on Facebook and are friends with liberal people, your news feed may have links to videos with captions like "No one expected this 8 year old to be a political genius!" or "Watch this pastor totally change his mind about gay marriage" or "If everyone was asked this one simple question, we'd wipe out homophobia tomorrow!"
These videos are corralled and annotated by Upworthy's crew of youthful "curators," who post hip selfies next to their finds. But in an attempt to make the videos go viral, those cool kids add captions that so exaggerate the content of the video that - even when I entirely agree with the content of the video - I am compelled to roll my eyes and contemplate writing a check to Mitch McConnell.
Real Example Upworthy Headline: "Frederick Douglass Was Asked To Speak At A July 4 Celebration. It Didn't Go So Well..." Except: the celebration Douglass spoke at was before an abolitionist group, and his speech was pretty much exactly what was expected. I have found no record that it "didn't go so well." Also, why is Upworthy just posting stuff from AP History textbooks?
Real Example Upworthy Headline: "MUST WATCH: The Video CNBC Tried To Hide From The Internet. They Probably Shouldn't Have Done That." Except: CNBC has the very same video on their own site, which is like the opposite of hiding.
Real Example Upworthy Headline: "Watch A Preacher Attack Gay Marriage And Totally Change His Mind On The Spot." Except: By "totally change his mind," they meant "never mind, he was just making a joke."
So instead of fighting this trend, I'm joining. Here are my submissions to be an Upworthy Curator:
Headline #1: "Watch A Kitten Respond To The Gop Immigration Plan Better Than I Ever Could" At 0:16 she makes her first argument, and by 0:33, she's nailed it.
I understand that there are a lot of great, important things to see on the internet. But Upworthy seeks to engage our feelings (This is amazing!, That guy got owned!) and not our brains (After considering the pros and cons of various positions, I will choose one). And to motivate the masses in a democracy, appealing to feelings is important. But if you consider yourself a thinking, rational person, then please consider yourself above random YouTube videos that a media intern slapped a barely-accurate title on.
Focus on the content and spare the hype, because the important questions don't have easy answers. I don't mind the Buzzfeedication of politics, people like sexy soundbites and easy-to-digest lists. But if you want to actually engage the world around you, insultingly simple videos are a poor substitute for reading actual source material and doing your own investigation.
There is no 12 year old genius who is both adorable and fully understands how to resolve the complex problems facing Egypt. Dustin Hoffman recognizing that society places unreasonable physical demands on women really isn't groundbreaking. And watching a poor girl recount a hellish episode of her life, with no context whatsoever, doesn't make you any better informed about how to make the world a better place. Don't have your politics spoon-fed to you, because by oversimplifying the world, Upworthy is lying to you. And you should be better than that.