Yes, this is a listicle about why to hate listicles. Yes, this is purposeful. My training in Linguistics at a top world university, concluded insofar as the teaching as of today, has told me that bluntness helps prevent confusion. It kills a lot of the joy in writing, but damn it, it removes a fair chunk of pragmatic interference.
I am sick of listicles. I’m sick of them on my Facebook. I’m sick of them on my Twitter. I’m sick of knowing that most who hire me to freelance for them expect condensed listicle soup instead of slow-roasted narrative. There are at least five reasons beyond my personal dislike to hate listicles, all of which are conveniently laid out for your consumption below.
1. They’re evvvvvvverywhere these days
I did a quick search, and found that listicles have taken over every part of the internet. They are even in Science. Google writes them to condense their philosophy into ten points. Wikipedia writes them.
In fact, the Guardian even provided us with a meta-listicle (a listicle about listicles) in the attempt to explain their rocket to internet pervasion. The author wrote this revealing quote:
“I’ll let you into a secret. A listicle is much easier to write than a regular article. I just have to think of each bit, and am blessedly free of the obligations to a) arrange them in a convincing sequence and b) deploy all the logical glue that sticks them together. Instead of “A, so B” or “A, but B”, all I need to write is “A! B! Oh, and another thing, C!”. It’s very relaxing.”
2. They’re Often Pointless
Recently, a particularly irking listicle appeared in my newsfeed on Facebook. The comments were filled with gushing, OMGs and cries of HolyCrapThisIsLikeSOMe!
“24 Signs You’re a Mom!”
If you need 24 signs to know whether you are a mom or not, something is very very wrong. That’s 23 reasons too many. As long as a human being squeezed itself out of your vagina (or was cut out of you in a cesarean) then, congrats! You’re a mother. No listicle needed.
3. They oversimplify
Who has time to read five articles about the current state of the world over breakfast? We live at breakneck speeds, running off to commute to work. In the US, many people don’t have the time to bask in the luxurious heat of the Central Line with 1/8 of Londoners, resting your copy of the Metro on a fellow commuter’s head. Never fear! CNN has distilled everything you could possibly want to know into five simplistic titles. You can memorise the bare minimum of information necessary to make it seem like you’re well-informed.
Don’t like CNN’s crumbling international reputation? The New York Times skipped straight from listicle to bullet points for all this information needed this Monday morning.
But the worst offenders in the listicle category, by far, are travel websites. They churn them out. 31 reasons to go to Bali. 94 reasons why you should have a destination wedding. 42 things you didn’t know about India. 2 reasons to go to Paris. It makes travel less of an adventurous journey and more of a to-do list, as if travel experiences are grocery items to collected and purchased.
4. They play to an obsession with instant gratification
It’s possible that listicles are rising and taking over the Written Word because of the tiny spaces available on our mobile screens. Only one or two paragraphs can fit on the screen at once, and it’s easy to get lost in the text. Listicles are gratuitously signposted, ludicrously easy to follow. There’s no joy of the hunt.
I’d be willing to bet that the listicles’ rise is linked to the desire to win arguments through the use of the Almighty Google. It’s far easier to convince someone that your view on public breastfeeding or your entrenched belief that electric cars are the Devil incarnate is correct when someone’s conveniently digested the information for you already.
Instant information vomit. Pre-digested. The listicles’ forte.
5. They hobble writers
Here I am, writing a listicle about how much I hate listicles. I’m participating in the information condensation production line, because I know the reader will be more used to this format. I know that the concerns of fluency and narrative are old-fashioned and quite possibly pretentious to the modern ear.
The remedy for listiclitis? Longer, more juicy articles. A favourite source of mine is Long Reads. Challenge the brain. Stop consuming information vomit.