Episodes of documentary series Follow This are now streaming on Netflix.
[Ed. note: Being that TV and City is on a bit of a hiatus, this article has not been edited.]
By Greg Wheeler
Buzzfeed has long been the butt of a long line of jokes online centred around stealing content from Reddit and producing a site full of clickbait articles. Follow This is a bold, interesting choice for the popular website, producing a documentary series for Netflix to try and shake some of the journalistic contempt hanging over the reporters who work for them. Unfortunately, Follow This only further reinforces these feelings as it combines a shockingly bias viewpoint, a bite-size run time that never gives enough time to fully explore the subject and a profound lack of respect for the chosen topics. While there are a few decent episodes here and the topics themselves are intriguing enough to carry a documentary series, any positives the documentary may have are quickly dampened by the negative which weigh heavily over the series’ credibility.
Right off the bat, Follow This gives no illusion that the journalists at Buzzfeed spend the majority of their time sifting through social media sites to try and find content to write for their website. The first episode follows journalist Scaachi Koul as she explores the world of ASMR – sensory videos uploaded to YouTube that help millions of people who find comfort in these audibly pleasing sounds.
Through a mix of face to face interviews and a tiny snippet of scientific background behind the phenomenon, Scaachi narrates on her viewpoints before feeding back to Karolina, her boss at headquarters, on her findings and feelings on the topic. Most episodes follow this format, right down to the speaker-phone conversation, as a handful of different journalists around the world look at a different societal topic in these 15 minute episodes.
By far the worst episode and journalist of the bunch depicted here is Scaachi and her biased, opinionated pieces are frankly shocking, especially the episode labelled “Men’s Rights” where she paints the Men’s activist group she goes to interview in an incredibly negative light straight away. While I’m not condoning showing toxic groups and people in a negative light, plenty of documentaries and journalists have covered far worse topics and done so with integrity and respect to try and understand views from both sides. Follow This does not. There’s an air of cynicism and contempt evident through body language and facial expressions of the journalists through most of the episodes. From folded arms and narrowed gazes to bites of opinionated dialogue disguised as factual narration, Follow This only further reinforces the stereotypes around Buzzfeed’s lack of journalist prowess at their office which seems like a real wasted opportunity.
Of course, there’s a reason the website is as successful as it is and for that respect is certainly due for the website and contributors around the world that have made it such a global success. If Buzzfeed wanted to shake the negative bias and contempt around the way it siphons its articles from social media, on paper Follow This seems like a step in the right direction. Under the right guidance and direction it so easily could have been and helped paint the website in a more positive light but unfortunately the air of cynicism, disbelief and bias evident throughout the series does Buzzfeed more harm than good when it comes to shaking stereotypical viewpoints on the site.
Having said that, the topics themselves are original and certainly engaging; ASMR is a completely new subject which you may not be aware of before watching this documentary and Whore’s Day is easily the best produced and unbiased out of the 7 episodes showcased. With a short run time you’ll easily get through the content here in less than 2 hours and likely forget about this one in around the same amount of time. When the dust settles, Follow This is simply a forgettable, astonishingly biased documentary series that drops the ball and never looks like picking it up, squandering any potential it may have had.
I give Follow This a D-.