Ah, the listicle. Short, sweet, and to the point. But often (almost always) lacking what feels like meaningful content. Somehow between 2012 and 2014, it seems the entire online community forgot how to form coherent paragraphs. Maybe this is due to the rise in popularity of Twitter and those pesky but sometimes wonderful 140 character limits, who knows. I understand though, because as an avid tweeter, I feel like my brain only thinks in bursts of witty thoughts throughout the day, just short and engaging enough to be valuable snippets that will garner me more than five favorites if I’m lucky. Anything else going on in my head is useless garbage.
I won’t read any more listicles because they make it seem desirable to write in these short bursts, and I’m convinced that the more of them we read, the more we shape our thoughts to look and sound like them. I get the appeal. I get the need for the bits of new and exciting information, small enough for our hungry brains to devour, process, enjoy, and move on to the next bit. But they are a cop-out, a quick and easy way to get 500 likes on Facebook. I also get that a lot of people won’t read this article because it’s long and they don’t have time because this is their five minute Internet break between work and class, and they need to eat something before they pass out, so they just want a quick and funny article to make them feel good. And many of these lists that I encounter today are just that — general statements about “20-somethings” that try to be so funny and relatable that they turn out terribly general and therefore wildly inaccurate for many of their readers.
I could say that only lazy writers produce these listicles, and that our generation as a whole is full of a bunch of lazy, self-obsessed fools. But I won’t. Even if it were true (although how could laziness really be quantified?) I don’t think it’s the root of this issue. I don’t think our generation is lazy. I do think, however, that Generation Y was at the perfectly ripe age of (very roughly) 11-20 years old when iPhones appeared and technology took a turn for the worse better, our brains not completely developed and our maturity still lurking deep below a layer of fart jokes.
Now I know you might say: “Hey, the Internet was around WAY before 2008, don’t go putting this blame on iPhone! Steve Jobs was a SAINT!” To that I say, do you remember the Internet of the 90s and very early 2000s? It was cool and yes, I spent hours on AOL talking to my friends every night, but that was pretty much it. Also I was really into The Sims, but that game totally taught me valuable life lessons, like don’t build a house without doors or smoke detectors. After a few hours on my family’s desktop computer, my mom would make me shut it all down and I’d go to bed. Or read a book or eat an apple or just stare at the wall. Today when I log off Twitter, shut my laptop (HA! this thing is on 24/7), and crawl into bed, my iPhone is in my hand and I go back on Twitter and keep scrolling.
This is not a particularly desirable behavior. I try all the time to put my phone away and read a book or do something productive. Sometimes it works; other times, I can’t resist the temptation. I’ve found that it’s nearly impossible to stay off my phone for a full 24 hours, partly due to my lack of self-control, but also because I need email for both school and work (just like the rest of the world). It’s fair to say most people my age are suffering from a mild form of ADD. We have so many tools to communicate and we are naturally social beings and we are intelligent and curious and we want to know things. We want to know everything! What better way to do that than to connect to the Internet and just soak it all in? It’s easy and fun so we do it. And while we may be expanding our knowledge with a constant flow of information, our ability to think critically and creatively on our own is slowly diminishing. Everything we encounter is condensed into 6-second videos or 10 line articles that try to engage all of our emotions at once. It all feels very superficial.
I hate being told 10 times a day what I should be doing/should know/should care about as a 21 year old living in New York City. I hate that I’ve been labeled as a “20-something” who doesn’t know how to find a job, how to date, how to cook, or how to do anything. I hate that even if I feel that I am competent and choose to ignore these lists, there is sure to be one out there that says I should be MORE competent — and here’s how in ten easy steps!
No list will change the way I go about my day. It won’t even change the way I think about my life while I am reading it. Your life cannot change in ten easy steps. But a captivating essay on love, family, college, or even food would be exponentially more successful in changing my thought process, even if just for a minute. Submerse me in your world. Write with passion. Pour your heart out. Don’t tell people what to do. Tell people how you feel. Chances are someone will appreciate what you have to say.