Listicles is the oxymoronic proper internet slang for list-based articles which are so fly these days that the web is all but drowning in them. In the spirit of human adventure, the natural question after “Do they have oil reserves?” is “Why is it so?” and it has been answered, by a horde of couch-psychologists and the odd writer with a piercing wit.
Despite the unfortunate name newly afforded to them, which make them sound like a recreation of Titanic in a cave, listing information has been around for a while. Although its present form is slightly worrying, because of the widening definition of ‘information’ writers of such articles are increasingly ascribing to.
It is easy to understand why we like them so much. It gives a concrete promise of how much information is being provided up-front, so the reader doesn’t have the fear of opening up a book with a three-syllable name like Iliad, and witnessing a cavalcade of flowery prose shower mercilessly upon him.
It has also been researched that people like catchy meaningless headlines that provide no actual pointers as to what the article is about, although the same could have been extrapolated by observing the sales figures of any frivolous magazine.
Listicle headlines provide a beautiful balance of alluring readers with some data that appeals aesthetically, but has no real meaning whatsoever. “N things you may not know about X” just begs to be read through, even, and especially if you know anything about X in the first place.
The issue arises when such articles become the primary staple of the information diet being consumed by a person. The more pedestrian of these articles are little more than click bait, and since they provide a false sense of accomplishment once the reader gets to the end of the list, following-up on the article by reading something slightly more real and meatier becomes the road less taken.
This is a bit scary, because it fosters people with a false sense of knowledge on a topic they have a scarce understanding of. It leads to opinions that would shatter if the opinionated would choose to look just a little further than skin-deep. Listicles are often pre-digested nuggets of information, and when blindly believed, it looks as if the modern world is littered with would-be pied pipers.
It is laughable to suggest that people should swear off listicles to avoid such dire endings. Rather, it is more prudent to suggest a building-up of the nature to question. To follow-up on any intriguing listicle one may come across, read more on it, and form opinions, whatever they may be. At least they won’t be someone else’s, and that is what the intrepid human spirit is all about.