All of us have indulged in the online guilty pleasure of lists, ranging from topics like “24 Hilarious Divorce Cakes That Are Even Better Than Wedding Cakes” to “23 Struggles of Working in the Fast Food Industry” (just a few I borrowed from today’s Buzzfeed homepage). They are short, easy to read, and get right to the point. Plus, they often serve as a exchange of shared experiences for people who live a unique lifestyle or are born in a certain place. However, these lists have become highly addictive amongst certain audiences, and have blown up to an extreme level that is now intolerable for the rest of the non-list readers on the internet.
Here are ten reasons why you need to stop reading online lists:
1. It’s journalistic prostitution.
Writers are being paid by the boatload to churn out the same mindless article progressions day after day: Headline, list number, sentence, two supporting sentences, next list number, etc. All lists have more or less the same structure, and it would take a monkey about 20 seconds to copy and rehash it over and over again. It isn’t mentally engaging for the writer or the audience. (That being said, I bet Buzzfeed staff writers laugh themselves to sleep every night.)
2. There are much better articles out there on the internet
For every “33 Things You Miss From The 90’s” article, there are legions of superior, thought-provoking articles written by hard-working writers–ones who actually make the world a better place by contributing to our vast pool of knowledge and curiosity.
3. It only fuels our culture of 30-second attention spans.
If you think about it, these types of articles are the product of a culture that feeds off of instantaneous indulgence. I mean, who really has the time to read through a 500 word article about the crisis in the Middle East? Yawn.
4. It’s quickly dominating web space making social media websites like Facebook pretty much useless.
When I scan my newsfeed nowadays, I’m guaranteed to find at least one or two lists posted by someone each and every day. This is basically saying “I’m too boring to post something original or even remotely gratifying, so here’s a list I thought was somewhat relatable. Enjoy your 30 seconds of fun!” It’s no wonder why Facebook is dead.
5. A lot of the points in lists are just garbage.
Even if you’ve avoided online lists for the most part, I encourage you to look at one just to see how little is actually there. The first few points usually ring true for a lot of people, but it soon becomes evident towards the bottom of the page that the writer ran out of things to say. At that point, he or she is pretty much making up crap to make a deadline.
6. Lists are now no longer relevant.
Not too long ago, there was a time when the occasional list was absolutely fine to read. There was a paragraph for each point detailing why it was included, the topics weren’t completely mind-numbing, and the list was genuinely fun to read. Like most good things that have arisen on the internet, however, its own popularity killed it.
7. They can become extremely time consuming.
Because lists were intended to be consumed in short intervals, it is very easy to jump from one list to the next. It’s ironic that something meant to be so short can grow into a marathon of browsing. The result? You’ve wasted 2 hours of life reading things nobody really cares about when you have work in the morning.
8. Websites use them as a crutch for content.
When websites are low on content, they often push easy-to-write and easy-to-read articles as a form of content filler until they find something better to publish. Why should audiences have to deal with sub-par reading material just because the website’s writers can’t come up with something worth writing about?
If the majority of the article is taken up by pictures, it’s a big red flag that what you’re looking for may be intended for a much lower reading level than your own. It’s the internet’s version of children’s books.
10. It’s a waste of time.
If you have nothing better to do than read online lists, you may need to get outside for a while and re-prioritize your life.
* * *
Remember: as long as people keep clicking on these links, websites will keep churning out this worthless dribble. Take a stand, demand more for yourself, and read something that’s actually worth sharing!
If you’d like to see some examples of lists that don’t really need to exist, check out the gems I dug up below: