Top 10 Reasons why Top 10 Lists suck

22 May 2015

You’ve surely seen them already, popping up in your newsfeeds or – even more prominently – in social networks.

I’m talking about the trend of “Top 10 Lists” that promise to enhance your life, your way of working, your way of being creative and more by shoving supposedly useful information in the shape of easy-to-follow tips down your throat. You can quite easily identify them by their clickbait-y (and of course SEO-compliant) titles:

Anyway, here are my (totally subjective) reasons why those lists are utter nonsense.

1. Those articles rely on sciolism.
Most of those articles aren’t only poorly written but their source of “knowledge” is mostly the experience and/or phantasy of the author alone. That’s not bad per se but since they’re usually strongly suggesting ways how to live your life, putting in some proof, references and context isn’t too much to ask for.

2. They don’t respect individual preferences or different kinds of societies.
Usually those lists will tell you what’s right based on the (closed-minded) opinion of their authors. They never think about people as individuals who have different needs, backgrounds, tastes and possibilities – but that’s what people are and that’s what’s great about them. The list authors shouldn’t try to diminish that by imposing their beliefs on everyone else.

3. They always claim to deliver superlatives and they are over-dramatizing.
You would never click those lists if they didn’t insist in their own importance and relevance to human kind. However it is mostly impossible, stupid or at least useless to look for the best, the greatest, the most useful and successful things – because people are different and should strive for different things, too (imho).

4. They always (have to) come up with a handy number of tips/paragraphs.
You’ll mostly find “Top 10” or “Top 5” lists because those numbers seem easy to digest and pretty to look at. That also means people have to come up with exactly that amount of tips, of course. So it’s not surprising that the tips further down the list are usually of poor quality/usefulness.

5. They’re sometimes image slideshows that are horrible to click through.
People want to make money and for some “articles” all you do is click through an image slideshow – that’s not only easier to create for the author (due to less text) but it also enables the site to show more ads to more readers and analyse their behavior according to their clicks. For you that means waiting time and less useful information.

6. They are not covering any interesting topic to begin with.
Just don’t waste your time reading top 10 lists about how to improve your life or your diet or your creativity. If you really want to improve those things, there are better and more profound ways (just doing things, reading serious literature about it or being inspired by completely different aspects of life, for example). Those lists might give you some inspiration but are designed to be easily consumable without getting too attached or involved with any serious change. I like to call them the “TV of the internet”.

So much for my feedback! Since this post is exactly one of the lists I described and dismantled above, I committed some of the same mistakes I mentioned here. I hope this trend vanishes very soon though.