A listicle is information served like a plate of cookies (20 of them! Just for you!) straight out of the oven. You sniffed out that oh-so-tempting number in the headline and despite your best intentions, you’re history.
Not even the nasty word “listicle” can deter you.
The MacMillan Dictionary defines “listicle” as “an article, especially on the Internet, that consists of a list of separate items rather than continuous text.” Some journalists, like the University of Chicago’s Arika Okrent, support this trend in newswriting because it caters to people who want straightforward, easy-to-follow news. It’s easy as 1, 2, 3. However, this fails to acknowledge the fact that few of life’s problems operate according to such a ready-made formula.
Which oversight gives rise to many distasteful phenomena, including the following:
Finely tuned intellectual arguments.
Insightful social commentary: “Remember that one time that one person was made you feel that one way, and then you made that one decision that totally changed things… Or didn’t? Relatable, amIright?”
Well said. Clearly, like Donald Trump, who claims “I have the best words,” this author possesses a versatile vocabulary informed by an excellent education and an intelligent, highly nuanced worldview, which qualifies her to guide your life decisions.
“Based on your previous reading, our website has generated a few suggestions that will feed your soul and change your life: 10 Ways to Ensure Your Future Spouse is a Multimillionaire Underwear Model who also Loves Cats!” Yes. “13 Hilarious GIFs that Show Why You Should be Just as Obsessed with Jennifer Lawrence as Everyone Else!” No.
And yet. GIFs really do grow on you the more you watch them. Repetition is the mother of learning.
The word “listicle” comes from the English “list” and “article,” which in turn originates from the Latin meaning “little joint,” according to Okrent. Etymologically, one could argue that counting these “little joints” in a listicle is a simple, logical way to spread information, just like counting on your fingers helped you learn to do math. But you don’t care because you were promised celebrity GIFs.
“Number 16 will crack you up!”
The smashing authority added to arguments by your “I saw it on” *cough cough* “Buzzfeed.” Or a more desperate situation: “Don’t believe me? Check out this Clickhole link.” *faked heart attack*
Marshall McLuhan says, “The medium is the message.” Neil Postman takes this a step further; he claims, “The medium is the metaphor .” A metaphor for the listicle: Let’s conduct our cultural discourse with a glorified version of Mom’s grocery list.
You didn’t get McLuhan’s message, anyway, since you spent about as much time reading the listicle as you spent looking at that list on the refrigerator. Milk and morning news: instant or skim?
Number 13 makes the same point as number 5. Principles of organization are low on the list(icle) of priorities. For what profits a man if he organizes his essay but forfeits his punchy one-liner?
A profound image that could probably be fleshed out if this list followed the thread of a traditional argument: Wisdom as benevolent leader, bullet-point-ridden, shedding his life’s‑blood down the pages of a million (and two! with pictures!) false pages of our modern forum – the internet. 10 Reasons You Should Celebrate the Ides of March: “Et tu, Brute?”
Despite the hype, number 16 failed to inspire tears of mirth.
Read it and weep. As long as you cry cynical tears. And as long as they don’t fall on your iPhone screen, because there are cats and underwear models to read about.
The listicle – a delicacy, like that warm batch of cookies, best consumed in moderation.