12 reasons why the listicle format is great
Actually, no. It’s not. The listicle, a portmanteau of “list” and “article,” has been around in media for years, but recently it’s been wreaking havoc on the quality of media we consume on the Internet. While it was normal and expected for publications to put out lists such as top 10 films or albums, this concept has evolved into a snarling beast spewing out barely-baked journalism.
Think about your Facebook or Twitter feed for a second. Chances are one of the most recent articles you posted or a friend posted sounds something like this: “17 reasons why New Year’s is the best holiday of the year,” and most likely, it was two pages of pictures or gifs (pronounced with a hard G sound, by the way) with little original content – maybe a caption or two, if you’re lucky. Drinking game: Drink every time you see one of these listicles posted. BuzzFeed, arguably the king of this trend, is victim of a hilarious stunt on tumblr that illustrates just how low effort their posts are. The tumblr blog “ Buzz Feed Articles Without The Gifs” posts Buzzfeed articles as if the images were removed. Here’s one about candy corn: “Some people would have you believe that candy corn is disgusting. But they are so, SO wrong. Candy corn has always been there for you. Its flavor is unmatched. It’s ombré candy. OMBRÉ. <3 U, CANDY CORN.” Or, “The 19 Worst Things Ever”: “This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This.” Now, there’s room to go on about how the listicle is damaging the value of real journalism, but I’ll spare you the sermon. Rather, let’s just see how insipid and unintelligent this type of media is.
There’s a mediocre website called Elite Daily where I accidentally stumbled across an article that says it has 50 truths that young women must realize about love and sex. I clicked on it because I knew it would be a hoot.
By the way, just think about that claim for a second. Great philosophers spend their entire lives finding just one truth, yet this writer has 50 packed into an Internet article. Holy wow. Let’s see what sage advice she has for young women: “6. It’s not true love if he only enters you through the backdoor.”
And later on, clearly not in a desperate rush to finish the list, “42. If you let him in through the backdoor and live to tell the tale…it IS true love.” It’s OK – take a second to laugh at that.
This is just one example, of course, but it’s representative of the intelligence level of this format. The sad thing is that these listicles don’t even have to get you 100 percent in order for you to repost it. You just have to agree with a decent amount of the content, and it hooks you. It creates the illusion of agreement. Every single one may as well be titled “X Amount of Things You Vaguely Relate To.”
And it’s no surprise whatsoever that these accessible listicles are shared so heavily. We love things that are quick and easy to consume, so a collection of bits we can nod our heads in agreement to are of course going to go like hotcakes.
Just don’t pretend they are at all intellectual or meaningful.
Andrew is a senior majoring in journalism. He goes to far too many concerts, suffers from severe wanderlust and takes pictures of things sometimes.