Let me make this clear: in this article, I am not speaking of list articles in general, but specifically those with less than 50 words under each number, plastered with a grotesque kaleidoscope of GIFs and screen-grabs of tweets. There is a plethora of intriguing, well-thought-out, wonderful articles that happen to be in list form, so please do not take this as an attack on the form.
Oh look, Stacey tagged you in a post, sharing "The 12 Things That Only Millennial Gluten-Free Jewish Sisters Get!" That’s you! That’s your specific demographic! Look at these hilarious things that you relate to! And these perfectly-paired GIFs! It’s all so wonderful! Plus, you’re reading, so you feel accomplished! What a day!
This is an issue. This is an enormous, hazardous, disgusting issue and the fact that these types of articles exist is a scar upon modern society. To be fair, clickbait like this has always existed, but never in as concentrated and threatening a manner. So what’s the problem with a few relatable and comedic listicles? Everything.
1. They exist as click-bait.
Click-bait by definition is an article or post designed to attract attention and get ad revenue through “clicks” and shares. Of course, entertainment and journalism have always been forced to utilize catchy titles and intriguing taglines. Still, articles that exist solely to gain readership through certain demographics are not actual journalistic articles. They are a source of ad revenue, and nobody should be found sharing what is actually a cash grab.
2. Journalism is about providing unbiased information to the public, and there is absolutely nothing to be gained from click-bait listicles.
Unless there is something I am missing (other than entertainment?) from “21 Foods That Forgot How to Food” or “15 Hedgehogs with Things that Look Like Hedgehogs," it is clear that these articles provide nothing but cheap entertainment. And cheap entertainment is certainly not what journalism is about. This would not be an issue if websites such as Buzzfeed considered themselves entertainment sources, but instead they label themselves “journalistic enterprises."
3. GIFs steal content and have no real purpose.
Look at this funny GIF from this show I have never seen!
I admit that I’m glad certain forms of media can be utilized to convey messages and meanings, but plastering a GIF under every reason why “having a sister is the best” is superfluous and unnecessary. Content is stolen; shows, movies and web content is misconstrued and abused for one’s own meaning; and the only one who benefits is the writer.
4. They crowd the marketplace, drowning out articles and voices that actually matter.
Journalism is incredibly important to the social and cultural health of society. It enables anyone to have a voice, an opinion, an outlet. So many people need this and utilize the format of an article or opinion piece so well to spread messages of joy, fear, justice or love. However, when the Internet is clogged with thousands of useless listicles, these are often kicked to the side and rarely read or appreciated. This is dangerous, for when these important articles are never read, their messages die quickly and society goes on without them. People are extraordinary and have extraordinary things to say. Listicles are not extraordinary, and have very little in the way of substance or meaning.
5. The format spoils readers and lowers their intelligence and reading habits.
Listicles are the McDonald’s of the web. They are cheap, fatty, unhealthy and provide nothing of substance or growth. When one eats only McDonalds, their health declines and they become accustomed to fast food. As we all know, this is unhealthy and terrible. However, in the past, fast food was thought of as absolutely wonderful. It took time before society rejected it, and even now it is popular. This is how listicles work. They are enticing, easy, cheap and utter garbage, getting you used to garbage more and more until all you can read is garbage. This is hazardous for your health as a thinker, a human and an individual.
So yes, listicles are terrible and dangerous, killing real journalism and content. So what should you do? It’s simple: stop reading them. Stop sharing them. Treat yourself to something a bit nicer. It may be more difficult to read or pay attention to, but it will always be so incredibly worth it.