Lately there seems to be a veritable plethora of numbered lists going around the internet. They’re taking over Twitter and Facebook and even LinkedIn (how bizarre!). They are wide and varied in topic and content, but mostly tend towards the complete banal…
24 Signs You Are A Writer – buzzfeed
10 Things You Need To Know About Losing Weight – SMH
45 All Time Best Wedding PhotoBombs – HuffPost
18 Things You Need To Know About California’s Worst Drought In History -BF
28 Things You Didn’t Know About Google – news.com.au syndicated version* of:
29 Awesome Things You Didn’t Know About Google (But Should) – HuffPost
11 Times When Retail Therapy Was A Completely Valid Choice – Mamamia
8 Reasons Why You Are Wrong About Not Vaccinating Your Daughter – blogger
10 Influential People Who Never Lived – Listverse
Well, here is a list of 10 Reasons To Avoid Reading Numbered Lists on the Internet! (Oh, the irony?!)
1. Most of these lists are ‘click bait’ designed to sucker you into clicking through to particular websites to boost their view numbers, so that they can then use your ‘clicks’ to sucker in potential advertisers. End result – everyone is a sucker.
2. Many of these lists are written by wanna be journo/writers at the bottom of the food chain. 99% of it is fluff and/or complete shite. If it wasn’t, it would be written into a decent article, by a credentialed journo with (god forbid!) references, that might be actually worth reading!
3. Many of these lists are the equivalent of a Grade 2 Reader – complete with pretty pictures to attract and keep your attention (beware the animated .gif list!) … Do you want to continue being treated like a seven year old? If so, keep on clicking through!
4. A good deal of the content in these lists is either appropriated, recontextualized or just plain stolen from other websites, by people either too lazy, too stupid or completely incapable of writing their own original content.
5. These lists are literally designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator – ie: the least educated and least savvy of internet consumers. The level of banality becomes apparent with you see lists like, ‘The 20 Sexiest Ugly People‘… seriously?
6. The recent proliferation and obvious predilection towards numbered list making, and numbered list sharing, is an unnecessary and unwanted distraction from the True and Proper Purposes of The Internets – stalking your ex, sharing LOLCats and searching for pornography.
7. Not one of these lists, including the ‘Top 10 Celebrity Side-Boob, Cleavage and Near Misses‘, are in any way conducive to bringing world about peace, ending poverty, saving the planet/whales/white spotted owls… nor can they even help find a decent cup of coffee. This last criteria alone renders them completely without purpose.
8. <this space intentionally left blank… but that’s okay, none of you will notice>
9. A growing body of research suggests that the superficial engagement and distraction of constant internet overstimulation is actually making people dumber. Lists like these are de-evolving our brain’s innate abilities for higher functions like analytical thought and reasoning.
10. But most importantly, striking up a conversation with a desirable member of the opposite sex that starts with ‘I read a list the other day of ‘10 Reasons the Moon Landings Could Be A Hoax‘… is just about a guaranteed to stop you from getting laid.
Okay, so maybe there are only 2 potentially valid reasons to avoid reading numbered lists on the internet… but my list, just like everyone else’s, is one or two valid or interesting points, fleshed out with crap.
Either way, the current propensity for inconsequential information being regurgitated into pithy little easily digestible lists that are then spoon fed to the masses is having an alarming effect on the delivery of more important information. Mentioned above were ‘8 Reasons You Were Wrong Not To Vaccinate Your Daughter’ and ’18 Things You Need To Know About California’s Worst Drought In Centuries’…
These are serious topics requiring deep engagement and serious cogitation and hopefully lively and enlightened debate. But what’s going on? In order to get anyone to share a serious awareness raising campaign on topics such as the ramifications of global climate change, and the tragic consequences of choosing not to vaccinate children in the 21st C, these complex and sensitive issues are being distilled into stupid dot point lists! Or else the masses won’t fucking read it!
*Your writing staff are getting pretty fucking lazy if they can’t even be bothered coming up with their own stupid lists anymore – and for anyone who was paying attention, you’ll notice the missing ‘Awesome Thing’ on the news.com.au version, was a tip on how to get around paywalls on news websites… huge surprise that the Murdoch press would cut that out of their syndicated list of Google Awesomeness!
It’s amusing that you missed the point of the 8 Reasons article — it was a direct rebuttal to an article articulating the 8 reasons a person did not vaccinate his daughter. If you compare the two articles, you will notice the original contains fear-mongering and inaccurate information even though it has been making the rounds among parenting groups as justification for endangering children’s lives. It also falls into the same vacuity that you aptly criticize here. The rebuttal to it, on the other hand, addresses every single fear-mongering misconception in the original but provides links to the scientific research and thoroughly explains the confusion concepts that parents often misunderstand when they choose not vaccinate. (Hence it’s extreme length compared to the other lists.) It offers an article that corrects the misconceptions to those who read the BS in the first one. It is because the incredibly “complex topic” of vaccination is made to seem so complex that we are in this pickle of having misinformed parents not vaccinating their kids. If it takes bulleted or numbered lists to explain the safety and efficacy of one of the most important public health advances in human history and to avoid further jeopardizing children, that seems a reasonable approach, especially when the overall health literacy and scientific literacy of the US populace is as low as it is.
I can’t really argue with any of your other points. They’re all good ones 🙂
Yes, I read through the ‘article’ (and I use the term loosely) which your article was rebutting, and as such, I totally understand why you replied in similar list-like manner. The short, pity, truncated list is becoming ‘de rigeur’ as an information delivery device, which as you demonstrated, can be used to good effect. But I fear that in future issues of great complexity, requiring sensitivity and weighty consideration are all likely to end up on pithy numbered lists one day… as we deliberately and systematically dumb down academic and scientific debates to match the audience’s attention spans.
I can’t argue with that at all. I’m a full-time journalist and a journalism professor at a university, so I get it. BuzzFeed… don’t get me started! 🙂