I think it is safe to say that here in the “Western” part of the world we love our lists. Creating categories permeates every thing we do; whether it’s stocking our kitchen, organizing a closet, or expressing a paradigm, we really love our lists.
We’re actually known for this habit. “Westerners” have a tendency to categorize and pathologize almost everything. Personalities, social habits, thinking patterns, and sexual tendencies all fit into nice packages with little room for context.
“You’re a man that enjoys jelly on half of his toast and butter on the rest? Let me see which Freudian philosophical puzzle your piece will fit in. Oh yes, it comes from the mother’s side.”
Aside from taking the completely obscure nuances to explain people’s preferences in their day-to-day activities, lists work. They can help organize thoughts and procedures. Lists can help us plan ahead with fashion and logic. Lists are a reasonable means to helping us accomplish complex tasks in a way that is translatable to other people. An organized pattern of instruction is crucial to logical and reasonable thought. There are some issues with constantly organizing the world, however. Issues that hang on the berth of insanity, and I mean the very definition of insanity. And honestly, unless I’m out buying groceries or looking at a recipe, blatant, spelled out lists don’t need a common and recognizable infrastructure.
A phenomenon—-whether it is recent or not is debatable, but for the sake of this potential dialogue let’s call it recent—-is creating lists for everyone’s enjoyment, and more frequently now creating them as attempts at helping others on the internet.
Before I begin picking apart the utter madness and sheer annoyance I have with this habit of its own, I will begin by admitting that at times I enjoy a good list. I personally love seeing lists of witty and satirical posts from cleverly named users on Amazon products or Youtube videos. Really, those things make me laugh every time, and it gives me optimism that there are still creative and clever people trolling the net.
My problem, which I hope is many of yours as well, is when I can’t find anything worth reading amid hours of scouring places I was once excited to. A few Internet hot spots that used to be a bastion for new, known and unknown writers, or people that just had something worth while to say have taken a quick path to a place that is full of a self help, why-you-suck-but-don’t-have-to-because-I-have-this-great-list-that-will-totally-help-you-turn-your-life-around-even-though-you’re-20something trove of useless information.
For some reason, I must be one of the few people that would rather read some fucked up short piece of fiction about a guy killing his girlfriend’s cat on accident and comparing it to the state of his relationship instead of wondering what “13 things I can learn from my grandparents,” or “25 signs you’re a millennial,” or—and this is my most hated, “15 reasons meditation/yoga/breathing exercises/a fuck load of candles every where in your apartment are going to radically change the way you feel/think/or whatever crock of subjective shit we can come up with.”
There was once a time that some of these lists were fun to read, mostly because they were new and creative. But I don’t—-I’m sure most people don’t-—need to be told how life should be lived.
A lot of the lists flooding HuffingPost, Thought Catalog, and Buzzfeed are accusatory in nature. They make claims like “Reasons your sex life could be better,” and “10 dietary changes you need to make now.” These headlines and titles, and the accompanying revelations are irresponsible at best, and at worst they are a manifestation of the mass media culture that all Americans are forced to navigate on a day-to-day basis. If you’re the one writing crap like “17 signs you’re a writer at heart,” then you need to re-evaluate what writing is, or dare I say it, read something that isn’t a list.
The situation has become dire, dear reader. People are now beginning to make lists of lists. Forced nostalgic word vomit like “a list of every list about Disney princesses,” is probably in the works. Admittedly, these lists of lists take a little more work to compile, but for all of that extra work on behalf of the “author” the reader is merely being rewarded with an even less creative pseudo-Wiki document.
I think the editors of these well-known sites, if they can call themselves that, need take a few steps back, maybe collaborate on this, and asses the damage they’re doing by choosing a headline that reads “20 reasons your dog’s shit can taste better,” over some good reporting or a quality piece of fiction on the daily homepage.
Either way, his shit probably tastes better for just one reason: it comes out in one, sometimes lengthy, cohesive chunk of which the content is only clear after careful, and sometimes repeated examination.