BY: TYLER FYFE
We have begun to consume information in the same way we swallow fast food and frozen dinners. List articles are the McDouble of the mind, providing the same instant satisfaction and slow brewing disease as two hormone-injected beef patties divided by a Kraft single.
1.) List articles capitalize on short attention span overwhelming viewers with useless information while wasting hours.
If you haven’t clicked the first shiny link in the sidebar yet, congratulations, there is still hope.
The rise of “clicking culture” has created an epidemic in our generation’s focus, our always-at–fingertip-knowledge subjecting many (children) to the principle of speed over substance.
Contrary to popular opinion, list articles do not advance the rate in which we can process information, but rather the rate in which we can blindly swallow it. Much like the correlation between microwaves and childhood obesity, snack-sized information has about as much to do with education as Pizza Pops do with human health.
2.) They teach writers and readers to skim the surface of subjects, knowing a little about a lot, but being experts in nothing.
List articles take the idea of Reality TV (fame is self-justifying) and apply it to the world of writing. Do you too want to be the Snooki of literature? If you can arrange GIFs and muster enough mental energy to write a handful of one sentence captions, then you too can contribute to an unblinking and salivating digital society.
Snack-sized information, like living off a diet of Cheetos, assures you are constantly eating while never truly being satisfied. The lack of nutrition and instant satisfaction assures repeat business, but also assures an equal rise in passive readers. This has led to the social media generation’s largest cultural addiction—scrolling. Scrolling is a virtual rabbit hole and according to a 2013 research report, the average person spends 3.6 hrs per day on social media. The bottom line is we are scrolling our lives away.
3.) Clickbait headlines treat readers like fish, sacrificing quality for advertising revenue.
List articles present single-file information like an assembly line, applying the principles of Fordism to a craft that is supposed to be anything but mechanical.
Although efficient and easy to swallow, both writers and readers are effectively deskilled with numbered points that, to Marx, might resemble factory line workstations.
Reading, by nature, is an abstract experience, allowing readers to explore the fences of their own imagination, but now in the eyes of viral-modelled publications, the definition of successful writing has switched focus to clickability and shareability. This clickability often translates into manipulating subconscious desires, like curiosity or sexuality, to get a click through, without offering any value in return.
Native advertising or brand sponsored content (also known by many other industry euphemisms) is the new frontier of digital media profit seeking. In 2014, Buzzfeed reached a revenue above $100 million dollars according to a leaked staff memo from Jonah Peretti. For those of you who may be unaware, this is advertising disguised as an article, in which articles are created not for the reader, but for the advertiser. While native advertising is not exclusive to list articles, it is a large ethical problem born from clickbait culture.
Simply, words are meant to challenge your perception, not reinforce your ignorance and empty your pockets.
4.) Snippet sized information distracts you from paramount issues that actually affect your life.
These are actual Buzzfeed articles:
It might make you depressed to know that Buzzfeed is consistently among the top 100 sites in the world.
The principle of misdirection is the foundation of all performance magic; watch my right hand as my left hand palms your card.
That being said, 15 pictures of Kim Kardashian’s air brushed ass does not hold the same value as the 15 ways the world you know is radically changing.
Aldous Huxley rolls in his grave, as his written warning becomes a social script, Brave New World serving as a cautionary against the dangerous human appetite for distraction. When humans are oversaturated by information it becomes impossible to sort. That is to say, when a photo is over-exposed to light, the image itself becomes illegible.
I offer a revision of the age-old adage “You are what you eat.”
You are what you absorb.
Your mind is a sponge.
This is why you were born with eyelids.
This is why the logout button is in the top right corner.