1. We use it as a guesstimation of how long it will take to read.
How much time do we have to burn before yoga class? An hour? Hell yeah, we’ll read this vacuous article of 101 Weirdest Posts Ever To Appear On Tumblr. Got 5 minutes on the toilet before we’ll really really really be late for school? Guess these 6 Creative Ways Of Eating Your Cereal will have to fill this vast, incurable gap in our day between the time when we unzip our pants and fold our toilet paper.
2. We want to know where this is going, before we get on board.
Something about vague, artistically thought out titles just doesn’t interest us anymore. Why read through 700 indecisive words to find out exactly How He Broke My Heart – when there are 8 Signs He’s Going To Ghost You trending on the neighbouring page? We want information, opinions, viewpoints, arguments, and we want them NOW. We don’t want to have to writhe them out from a paragraph of buoyant metaphors, rhymes or poems, when we can have it summarised into one sleek, simple bullet point. To hell with expression! We want journalism! Who has time for literature anyway, right?
3. We want to feel a part of something bigger.
Because over-generalisation, in a way – is comforting. The very fact that 12 Things That Happen When A Girl Falls In Love could so easily gather a handful of relevant points – makes us feel like all those other 5k views must come from a place not much different from ours. Someone finally understands. Aaaaaand cue the sharing, and the tagging, and the “No. 4 is soooo true!”s. We want to validate each other’s beliefs and experiences. We want to relate. Because beneath our restless desire to be unique, is the insatiable need to feel connected. (Woohoo, everybody wins. We all love each other. Ellen DeGeneres would be proud.)
4. We sieve out what we’ll want to read beforehand.
And conveniently ignore what we don’t. Have at least 50% of these 32 Times Your Period Did You A Solid happened before? Are at least 7 out of the 10 Telltale Signs You’re Dating A Gentleman applicable to us? If yes, read on! (Only those which apply.) If not, then keep scrolling… Whoever wrote this obviously doesn’t know what they’re talking about enough to be on the Popular page.
5. We are constantly looking for the fast-lane.
Are you even reading this right now? Well, congratulations, because you’re a part of the minority of readers who effectively read the text under the individual headings – and don’t think that reading only the headings (plus a few lines in between) counts as reading the full article. Too often do we find ourselves skimming once through, expertly connecting each sub-heading to craft what exactly we think this piece of writing could be all about. Then we emerge from the article with the words intact, but no recollection of the voice to which they belong. So kudos to whoever made lists a trending thing! Someone call me when they figure out precisely what about placing a magical number strategically in my title garners me that many more views, yet that few viewers who can actually see.