Alright, I lied, I don’t have five facts. But didn’t that title draw you in? That’s the point of a “listicle,” a portmanteau of the words “article” and “list” and consisting of just that. These articles often feature facts about interesting things (Nine Badass Tricks You Can Do With Ordinary Stuff) or culturally relevant people or things ranked at the whim of the writer (27 Heartthrobs From the Early 2000s), essentially whatever is able to draw readers in. Listicles have been growing in popularity over the past couple of years. Online entertainment websites like Cracked and Buzzfeed have increased their popularity quickly- allowing readers to post these quick and intriguing reads to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and just about any other social media site under the sun. Once these listicles are shared online, they have the potential to go viral, or at least draw some people in that wouldn’t normally read those types of websites. The quick growth of listicles as a format have prompted plenty of satire, most evident on The Onion’s new project, Clickhole, which strives to “make sure that all of our content panders to and misleads our readers just enough to make it go viral,” by posting joke listicles like “10 Adorable Pictures of Little Kids in Casts That Will Make You Wish More Children Broke Bones.” For many, the listicle has become something to mock, so why is it still so popular?
Published in the Journal of Consumer Research in the 2013 was a study called The Top-Ten Effect: Consumers’ Subjective Categorization of Ranked Lists, which revealed one reason why listicles are so popular. “The top-ten effect that we demonstrate in these studies is based on the mental tendencies to use categories and to exaggerate the differences between them. These tendencies are part of the natural human readiness to perceive the world in terms of discrete things.” So there are so many listicles because of our “mental tendencies to use categories?” Because we need them? That’s not exactly it. Another reason for the popularity of listicles is because they are often what is referred to as “clickbait,” juicy, sensationalist pieces that bring readers and revenue into the publication. Though these pieces lack the journalistic integrity I’m sure many writers dreamed they would possess as they begrudgingly type something like “25 Reasons Why That Guy From Twilight Is Like, Soooo Still Relevant,” listicles don’t seem to be going away, so why not enjoy them?