If you are an avid consumer of web-journalism, you may have noticed that short and long-form journalism are something of an endangered media species these days, falling prey to the increasingly trendy Top Ten. Or Eight. Or 57.
10 Ways to Cheat on Your Husband and Stay Happily Married. 7 Reasons to Quit Your Job (Even If You’re Broke). 12 Ways to Communicate with Your Angsty Teen. 25 Ways to Mount Your Man. 8 Signs That You Should Seek Therapy. 15 Reasons You Will Die Alone. 57 Headlines That Rocked the World. 100 Websites That Will Change Your Life.
Whether you are seeking marital counseling, parenting advice, career guidance, spiritual awakening, flat abs, or a really good lay, there’s a pithy list for that.
I won’t bore you with an explanation in verbose, tedious prose. In the spirit of irony, let’s keep it laconic:
1. Facebook and Twitter Have Rewired Our Brains: If you can’t say it in 140 characters, why say it at all? Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Now there’s a Twitter stream that would have been worth following.
2. Lists Don’t Need to Be Fact-Checked or Researched: We need information, and we need it now, dammit! Huffington Post must fill its quota of publishing 32 completely irrelevant “articles” per day and they can’t be bothered with tracking down people to interview, scholarly research, or, really, any new information. Better to compile what we already know into a sassy list.
3. I Have 38 seconds: With smart-phones all the rage, who needs an extended period of time for reading? Now you can get all the information you need to land your dream job/spouse/house/salary while you’re waiting in the self-check out line at Shoppers. Fashion crisis? Learn 17 ways to wear a festive scarf in under a minute!
4. Sustained Thought is so 20th Century: Limits of the information age: As our attention spans approach the mental capacity of goldfish, the art of written language approaches oblivion. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been intrigued by a headline, opened the page to see that the article was more than five pages, and lost interest about halfway through the second page. Listmania is predicated on near pandemic levels of attention deficiency.
5. Bold Headlines are Time Efficient: That pretty much sums it up, right? Lists are based primarily on speculation, regurgitation, and uninformed opinions, so there’s no need to elaborate. However, since the author is probably being paid by the word, he or she will take pains to explain the overly simplified.
6. Keep It Simple, Stupid: If Wilson can precipitate an armistice to a global war in 14 points, surely you can tone those jiggly thighs in 7 steps.
7. Best Ofs: The problem with the 21st century global economy is that there is just. so. much. stuff. On Sephora.com alone, there are 223 choices of lip gloss. I’m sure they’re all poppin’, but nevertheless, it would be great if the luxe lip experts of, say, Cosmopolitan could regularly issue a list of the Top 10 lip glosses for every possible occasion, budget, season, lip size/shape/volume, time of day, desired effect, and eye color. This will undoubtedly save countless women from the paradox of choice. What’s that, you say? They already do? Well. Good on them.
8. We <3 Abbrevs: First, there was the abbreviation. Surely, there was no harm done in substituting Dr. for doctor. Lil’ did we know that abbrevs were just the 1st stop on the slippery slope to the oblivion of the art of written language as we know it. Next, we entered the age of the acronym: an era characterized by the glorification of trite acronymic phrases, such as OMG LOL I’ll TTYL, LYLAS, further bastardizing the English language. Pretty soon, we should probably stop using words at all. Blink once for no, twice for yes.
9. Comfort in Quantifying a World that is Qualitatively Screwed: There’s safety in numbers, and I’m not just talking about tween dates at the movies. You probably do not recall any lists in the vein of “13 Ways to Eradicate Poverty” or “7 Easy Steps to Solving the Debt Crisis!” Between the unemployment rate, the energy crisis, and the sorry excuses for politicians that the GOP is parading around the country, we might as well itemize our love-loss, celebrity antics, and weight loss agendas. There’s no solace in the complex, ill-structured problems of the world. By their very nature, they lack a clear starting point or logical proceeding to the desired outcome. But hey, guys, guess how many celebrity marriages failed faster than you can say Kim Kardashian? LOL.
10. Fear of Creating Meaningful Content: Regurgitating, reformatting, and reflecting on existing knowledge is easy. For the majority of us, that’s what we were asked to do for the first twelve years or so of our academic careers. Summarize this. Synthesize those. Rarely, if ever, were we charged to create new knowledge in school. In fact, some of the most prolific innovators of our time (Gates, Zuckerberg, Jobs) opted out of institutionalized higher education altogether. The internet offers an unprecedented opportunity in human history to both locally and globally collaborate to impact our world for the better through innovation. Making endless lists of what we already know does not serve the world. Unless, of course, you are designing the 12 step process for eliminating world hunger - in which case, carry on.
Note: As a great lover of lists, this rebuke of lists is vaguely hypocritical and is written as much as an admonishment to myself as to other list-maniacs. In addition, I do think there’s a time and place for lists - like Cosmopolitan’s beauty guide. Let’s just remember to think, create, innovate, and design for the future between our 6 steps to a better night’s sleep and 30 days to a firm ass.