5 Reasons we Love and Hate Listicles

Online platforms such as Demolistic, List.ly and Listicle have embraced opening collaborative user generation of lists to the general public.

Buzzfeed’s ListiClock displays a flip clock with a listicle for every hour, minute and second of the day.

lists listicles

A listicle is an informal term for an article made up of a series of facts, tips, quotations, or examples organized around a particular theme. Listicles are irresistible. Here are a few reasons why we love them and hate them:

Why we love lists:

1. ADD. It’s what’s for dinner: The list is MTV in writing and pictures, a sound-bite, a quick flash that startles our fractured attention, helps us focus and consume culture in bite-sized bits. Ah…

2. God loves lists: Genesis begins with a list of what God did on each day of the week. God was also the first to create the top ten list. As creator, God knew man would love them, too.

“The original lists were probably carved in stone and represented longer periods of time. They contained things like ‘Get More Clay. Make Better Oven.'” -American psychologist David Viscott (May 24, 1938 – October 10, 1996)

3. tl;dr: Literally, “too long; didn’t read.” Even authors of thoughtful pieces make shorter summaries of their work knowing that most people won’t bother to read the longer versions. The structural form of a list requires little time and low cognitive effort.

4. Lists appeal to our desire to make order out of chaos, “to make infinity comprehensible.” -Umberto Eco

5. Many lists are funny and humor will never go out of fashion. Some lists are meaningful. Take, for example, Schindler’s List, which is based on a true story of a German businessman who used a list of names to save more than 1,000 Jews from the concentration camps.

Why we hate lists:

1. Listicles are advertising click and share bait, written about everything and nothing ad nauseam. This month NPR Books said it was suffering from list fatigue and presented its year-end best books coverage in a new way, the Book Concierge.

“And though Buzzfeed the Internet may be determined to prove otherwise, we wholeheartedly believe that human beings are capable of absorbing new information in formats that are [ ] not sequentially ordered.” -NPR

2. The preponderance of lists chip away at serious journalism and erode intellectual thought (the idea that today’s journalism students are contemplating Upworthy’s tips for writing 25 headlines is unsettling).

3. Lists belong on post-its or in power-point presentations, not in journalism.

4. Lists are for lazy writers who have difficulty connecting their thoughts.

5. ADD. It’s what’s for dinner: As more and more kids are being diagnosed with ADD and prescribed stimulant medication to help them focus, technological advances, the media and society encourage trends that mimic many of the disorder’s symptoms.

Let us know if you love or hate listicles, and what you would add or remove from this list.