By Noort Bakx
Lists. I come across more and more lists. Everywhere, whether it is my plain old grocery or to-do list, Twitter lists, lists on my news site, the best-seller list, we are listing. Even on our very own blog, they have been all over the place. ‘Reasons we love smartphones’, ‘Reasons to stick to crappy phones’, ‘Top books’, ‘Best covers’ and ’10 things to do in class’, there’s a whole selection right here.
Buzzfeed, the king of lists, have managed to get very successful with articles in lists form. Think of ’16 cats drinking from cups’, ’15 people that just got screwed by life’ and ‘25 Texts That Will Make You Appreciate Your Mom’. And I can go on and on like that. Somehow, Buzzfeed might have discovered the new way of making news. Because it’s not only about cute cat pictures, ‘serious’ news topics are just as much part of the website. Look at a list article on marriage equality in America. According to an article I read this week from a Buzzfeed reporter on Foreign Policy, it is how the web nowadays works. Cats and politics coexist and show up on your newsfeed next to each other. However, is still doesn’t really explain why this news has to be in lists and why we are so keen on making those lists.
So I did some research. And I found several explanations, reasons and facts about list making, where some of course came in the form of lists. So let me list them for you.
– According to writer Umberto Eco, “We like lists because we don’t want to die.” “The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order—not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries.”
– The word “list” can be tracked back to William Shakespeare, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. In Hamlet, the Bard refers to “a list of landlesse resolutes.”
– Want to become famous? Thomas Jefferson, Peter Mark Roget, Martha Stewart and Benjamin Franklin are some list-makers that set the example.
– According to psychologists, half of us write something down on a list after we’ve completed it, just to feel a rush when we come to cross it off.
– Lists bring order and remove chaos. The simple fact that lists help remembering, make sense of things and organize, whether it’s your to do’s or your news.
– It’s easy to write, and easy to read. Here the discussion comes in whether the internet is making our brains lazy and passive, but that’s another story.
– It’s just plain fun.
Smith sees potential in listings, not connecting them with the decline of proper journalism. ‘’Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because the social web is full of cat pictures, great journalism is dying. In fact, many great journalists are fond of cats.’’ Whatever explanations there might be behind them, according to Smith ‘’Lists, are the news of the future.’’