My bff, a beautiful writer concerned with serious matters, is forever forwarding me articles like 17 Dicks You Wish You Could Get Your Hands On and Why I won't date hot women anymore. I try to keep from clicking, but I can't resist.
I was trying to explain to her why this makes me want to throw my laptop through the window, but I can't do better than this quote from The Glass Bead Game. Hesse writes in the voice of futuristic historians:
...in the course of the aforementioned Age of the Feuilleton, men came to enjoy an incredible degree of intellectual freedom, more than they could stand. For while they had overthrown the tutelage of the Church completely, and that of the State partially, they had not succeeded in formulating an authentic law they could respect, a genuinely new authority and legitimacy. Ziegenhalss recounts some truly astonishing examples of the intellect's debasement, venality, and self-betrayal during that period.
We must confess that we cannot provide an unequivocal definition of those products from which the age takes its name, the feuilletons. They seem to have formed an uncommonly popular section of the daily newspapers, were produced by the millions, and were a major source of mental pabulum for the reader in want of culture. They reported on, or rather "chatted" about, a thousand-and-one items of knowledge. It would seem, moreover, that the cleverer among the writers of them poked fun at their own work. Ziegenhalss, at any rate, contends that many such pieces are so incomprehensible that they can only be viewed as self-persiflage on the part of the authors. Quite possibly these manufactured articles do indeed contain a quantity of irony and self-mockery which cannot be understood until the key is found again. The producers of these trivia were in some cases attached to the staffs of the newspapers; in other cases they were free-lance scriveners. Frequently they enjoyed the high-sounding title of "writer," but a great many of them seemed to have belonged to the scholar class. Quite a few were celebrated university professors.
Among the favorite subjects of such essays were anecdotes taken from the lives or correspondence of famous men and women. They bore titles such as "Friedrich Neitzsche and Women's Fashions of 1870," or "The Composer Rossini's Favorite Dishes," or "The Role of the Lapdog in the Lives of Great Courtesans," and so on...When we look at the titles that Ziegenhalss cites, we feel surprise that there should have been people who devoured such chitchat for their daily reading; but what astonishes us far more is that authors of repute and decent education should have helped to "service" this gigantic consumption of empty whimsies. Significantly, "service" was the expression used; it was also the word denoting the relationship of man to the machine at that time.
tr, Richard and Clara Winton