So Someone You Know Has Published an Article for “Thought Catalog”

Or Her Campus. Or The Odyssey Online. Or Total Sorority Move. Or any other “platisher” (a portmanteau of platform and publisher) website that produces content aimed at a millennial women, with the intent of getting as many clicks as possible.

It happens to all of us who have Facebook accounts. You’re scrolling down your Feed, past the new photo albums, shared videos and there it is: your friend/classmate/acquaintance proudly boasting about the personal essay they wrote for a content website.

The picture is most likely tinted blue, with a stock footage model not looking at the camera. The headline kills you. It’s another one of those “open letters” or an article about why they “totally should” date some kind of girl. Either way, the amount of times you’ve seen these click-bait headlines is excruciatingly often.

And now, your friend has succumbed to the click-bait webdemic.

So what do you do?

Let’s just say I’ve encountered these enough to come up with a step-by-step guide as to how to react to these types of situations. In the form of a listicle.

Step 1. Open it. You must.

Step 2. Immediately search the post for any clues about you.

(It’s better to call them out if they have listed you directly in the article. It’s more relevant.)

Step 3. Rate their use of GIFS. Because why not?

Step 4. What are they bragging about? According to Gawker, there are 5 types of Thought Catalog posts, but I would extend this to any platlisher. Deciphering what kind of post it is will help you if you decide if you should confront them about the issue.

Step 5. If it is someone you truly care about, contact them privately as to why they would publicly embarrass themselves like this.

Step 6. Sit back and ponder why it is mainly women who fall victim to the pseudo-personal-essay trap. Wonder if this really is the best way for women to start out in the online writing game and if it is, do they go anywhere after this? Will any news organization  really want to look at your writing if all you have are articles bragging about how you’re a “laid back kind of girl” through J.Law reaction gifs? (I thought I was being “relatable” with this sentence, but apparently there is a whole section of literature of this sort.)

I realize this post is basically a prolonged sub-tweet. But the amount of times I’ve been able to decode someone’s personal life based on what I know from them and what they write in these articles is too much for me to be comfortable with as a 20-year-old. Think about it for a second: If the girl who’s been dating the same guy since high school posts an article with the headline “15 Things You’ll Do When You Think About Your High School Boyfriend,” do we really have to guess who it’s about? Of course it’s about Jonathon, the guy she’s been dating since the homecoming dance freshman year. Why would someone do that, especially when you consider the types of people that are seeing these posts? Her aunt and favorite English teacher are probably friends with her on Facebook and can totally comment on it.

As for  the content of these articles? They aren’t well-written. It would be a stretch to even call them articles; they are 21st century diary entries for an audience of millions. Most of the time, these posts are written with the underlying message of “Look! I’ve done this!” disguised with the cover of “advice.” The hangover posts, dating posts and the sex posts all say one thing: I have done this and I want to tell everyone I’ve done this, but it would be weird and socially unacceptable if I just bragged about it, so I wrote about it for a website.

Self-awareness is the number one thing many of these young writers lack. These “platlishers” aim their content primarily at college-aged women; thus, they are written by primarily college-aged women. As an aspiring writer, I know how difficult it is to get published. But the web is a world wide place; there are so many sites you can write for if you want to get published. Articles like these are property of the sites they are posted on, and are a part of their Internet footprint…forever.

Not every article can be Pulitzer-prize winning commentary, nor should it. “Fluff pieces” have always held a place in journalism, from Dear Abby letters to celebrity interviews, they are fun to read and break up the heavy news the world usually delivers. What this style of writing means for our generation is serious. The tone of these posts are monotonous, just like the algorithm generated headlines that accompany them. What does this mean for young writers looking to find their voice?

To be frank, I don’t even know the answer. But I know it won’t be found in a listicle.

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