Wednesday, August 20, 2008

10 reasons why lists are so annoyingly popular on the Internet:

1) It’s the Internet; a massive collection of information that offers more content then we’ll ever need. has estimated there are over 175 million websites on the Internet. We barely have time to get through one webpage, mind 175 million. The Internet isn’t like a newspaper, it’s not organized into tight little news packages and stories, we have to sift through all the bullshit being thrown at us. So it doesn’t hurt when it’s already condensed and ready for bite size consumption.

2) A key target audience are Millennials. Aka; the hyper spaz’s with some unidentified malignant form of ADHD. Growing up with the Internet isn’t easy, and it has significantly changed the way the kiddies have gone about processing information. Often called the multitasking generation for their ability to juggle the often mind-numbing barrage of today’s hyper-media, it has consequentially caused a shorter attention span in the effort to absorb as much as possible. Although multitasking has been proven somewhat faulty, condensed lists help remedy the quest to absorb little bits of alot between sessions of twittering, livebloging, IM’ing and Facebook poking.

3) The Internet has become a tool to re-catalogue and document our world. Two years ago when "Web 2.0" was christened as the new way of “democratically” creating web content, it altered the focus of how we created it. Web 2.0 sites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Flickr, &, are all sites dedicated to creating archival content on the Internet. In essence “Web 2.0” has become our 21 century digital library and the lists we make (even the most trivial) are part of the continuous editing/updating of our web-archive. Also it doesn’t hurt that we’ve become nostalgic bastards in the process, so; nostalgia + re-recording history = list-making.

4) Nobody has time to read anything at length anymore. With the economy in shambles and living in a high-speed world, we’re all forced to work a little harder and accomplish more. Although studies are uncertain if we have more or less leisure time, in taking a page from the Millennials we still try to cram as much in as possible. That leaves less time for recreational activities, such as reading multiple paragraphs.

5) We’re internally wired to find the quick and easy approach. There is nothing more American than finding the quick and easy way of doing something. Lists are the epitome of this, I mean, our country has been founded on them. But it’s just not an American thing, it’s a human thing; we tend to gravitate towards the neatly summarized and condensed. As the Internet increases in use and accessibility, it’s also increasingly reflective of our psychology. Internet lists prove when given the option between long reads and short, we’ll choose whatever easiest on the eyes; “The scanning eye doesn’t have time to digest everything on the page. By organizing the information, lists have a greater chance of catching the eye”(1). Ever read a magazine article and if there are bulletpoints on the side you’ll read those first? Thank your scanning eyes.

6) It helps your article get pushed up top of sites like Digg and Reddit. Lest we forget, the Internet is serious business, and all businesses have marketing strategies. Already aware that people go bat shit crazy for lists, web companies/web startups/bloggers know submitting their lists to these sites is an easy way to garner page views and traffic to their sites. Its practically becoming a science; more “links equals better standings in the search engines, and thus higher traffic, so there is an obvious incentive for the webmaster, regardless of the discussion or sharing of the page”(2). So when you see lists like this, you'll know it’s just a marketing scheme... that you fell for.

7) It’s fun and easier to know a little about everything than a lot about something. Remember the game trivial pursuit? Yeah me neither. But the Internet is like one big massive game of trivial pursuit, with little bits and pieces of facts and quotes floating around. We all love factoids and disposable pieces of knowledge, lists organize these factoids and package them up nicely. Even if you forget what you’ve learned a day later, at least you can tell someone you’ve learned something.

8) It’s someone else’s opinion, which leaves it open for debate. One thing this decade has proven is that everyone has an opinion on everything (I realize the irony here), and in doing so everyone wants to be the first to say it. Therefore a list allows you make stake, chime in, and debate someone else's claims by doing the ultimate thing on the Internet; tell someone you know better then they do. The Internet exposes our interests, and when everyone can see our likes and dislikes on our personal webpage’s, it suddenly breeds competition to see who listed or liked something first. So making a list is an easy way of stating your opinion first, and allowing others to follow suit by commenting. Whether people agree or not doesn’t matter, as long as there is enough buzz for people to talk about what’s been written. Which brings me to #9.

9) It expresses the need to belong. Yes, we all feel the need to belong, wasn’t that the point of "Notes from Underground?" Well I don’t know, but the feeling of needed approval and community is indeed a very strong one, and through list-making and endlessly debating these lists, its gives us a sense that we have things in common with each other. Don’t you agree? Maybe? Please?

10) We are constantly trying to find order in chaos. I was on a gossip site the other day and they were discussing the curse of people dying in threes (Isaac Hayes, Bernie Mac...). I left a comment on the article about how it’s nothing but superstition, and people got seriously upset. It made me think everyone has their own way of keeping themselves in check, keeping themselves grounded. Whether its religion or belief in a higher power we all like to believe everything has an order, a reason. Lists are “itty-bitty utopias, perfectly structured with mathematical elegance(3) that help us understand and connect the important and trivial things around us, which were once unparalleled into one singular thought. Making them into perfectly rounded off and structured “top 10 lists”, help us feel in control of our world, hopefully.

Other lists on lists;