With the influx of Clickbait surrounding our lives these days, it's easy to think that Top 10 lists are taking over our world. But deep inside this new beast of the Internet is a mimesis of information sharing. But who am I kidding, no one reads these introductions anyway (I know I don't). 10. You automatically know how much information you're getting. You're getting ten nuggets of information based on a subject. That's it. When reading a textbook, you're constantly wondering: "Where is this going?" "How many more pages do I have to read for Wednesday?" "Should I be highlighting this?" A top 10 list has none of these problems. You know exactly how much more you need to read at any given time (you're at number 10 now, so buckle in). While each list covers one topic, the main points are laid out with big, huge labels, no highlighting necessary.
9. The content can be variable in its presentation. The only solid thing about a top 10 list is that it's a list of the top 10 something. What that something is, and how it's presented depend solely on the author of the piece. The heavyweights, as it were, in the numbered list category are Cracked.com and Buzzfeed. Cracked gives each item in its lists a small essay about the subtopic, punctuated be stock images with relevant and humorous captions. The 'Feed, on the other hand, fills each item with a gif from a TV show or movie that's hardly relevant to the title. These are dynamic opposites, but they're both equally valid. One seeks to impart knowledge, either of history, psychology, or critical analysis on the reader through the use of humor; the other is Cracked. WatchMojo, on the other hand, presents their lists in video form. Their videos are upwards of fifteen minutes long, but no one really seems to notice. They all appeal to their demographic, and their demographics like different things. And speaking of intended audiences...
8. You don't have to worry about segues. In essay writing, you have to spend page after page explaining how one thing connects with another thing. In a top 10 list, you have to dedicate none pages to that. You don't have to present your various arguments as one cohesive topic, as long as it fits under that title. Yes, you can always allude to the connection, but you don't have to. Usually, that's because the items in the list are so closely related that you don't have to spell out their connection. But if their not that close, and you put them under the same title, the reader will automatically make the connection.
7. They're super easy to share. Go to your favourite social media site. How many people have posted a new peer-reviewed issue of Freudian Psychoanalysis in Film Monthly (can you guess what class I'm in right now?) on their Tweetbook? That's right: no one. Now, how many people shared some numbered list. That's right: more than the previous number. Top 10 lists are super accessible, compared to your typical scholarly journal. First, there's no paywall (that's a big thing) but more importantly, they are things that people can read in their leisure time. As I've expressed before, making education something people actually want to do is very important in this day and age.
6. They provide a gateway to tangential learning. Top 10 lists don't provide much in lieu of direct information. There simply isn't the space for it. But what these lists can do is get people interested in a topic. It gets them at least interested enough to click the hyperlinks. In this case, I'm talking more about Cracked-style articles. Four years ago, today, I read David Wong's article about Monkeyspheres. That was my own personal foray into, not only using leisure resources for learning, but also the idea of tangential learning, and that something presented so simply could inspire someone to learn more about a subject.
5. They promote complex thinking strategies. With a Top 10 list, you are presented with ten separate ideas. Those ten ideas are only connected by one sentence: in this case, the title. Like I said before, it's up to the reader to be able to piece each of these list items together to make a complete idea. In this modern world, the ability to synthesize information (especially when you don't have all the information, like in a top ten list) is invaluable in this modern world. It's important to learn how to draw similarities between different topics that seem unrelated. Conversely, it's equally important to see what maybe doesn't fit.
4. They force information to be concise and attainable. (and sometimes redundant) Big words are superfluous. And, when you're reading anything scholarly, that's what you're signing up for. Big words, big concepts, and sentences that run for a page and a half. Top 10 lists are written in a way that is easily remembered and easily shared. It's almost as if that was the intent. And, when you want information to be shared, what you need is memorability and shareability. Or gifs, but that really depends on what you're trying to get across.
3. They promote a new outlook on education and information sharing. Everything about a Top 10 list promotes education: from its conducive layout, to its simple syntax, to its hyperlink citations, to its seamless integration into the millennial milieu. In an age of instant gratification and "over-sharing", this is the perfect evolution of the spread of information. I'm not saying that Buzzfeed should replace school (I don't think anyone said that ever). But, if properly weaponized, Top 10 lists can be used for good instead of stopping me from finishing my homework in a timely fashion.
2. They don't need to be ten whole things. Unlike essays, papers, sonnets, and journals, numbered lists don't have the same limitations in format. Beside the intuitive "Title: content, Title: content" pattern, there's really no limit on what you can do. I've seen numbered lists go all the way up to 56 (you're damn right I read the whole thing) and as low as three. Case in point, this top ten lists only has nine items. Suck it, The Man.