Why do we love lists?

List lovingIf you’re a blogger, or even if you’ve ever just browsed the online media, you will be well aware that one of the most popular formats for a post/news-related story is the ubiquitous list.

I am sticking this very post on to one of my own favourite linkies from the parenting/lifestyle niche – aptly entitled ‘The List’ – so I’m sure a few readers may also be fascinated by this phenomenon!

Personally I like making lists as I’m sure do many people – a to-do list provides a written reference to a set of (hopefully!) attainable goals and gives you some accountability and structure in how you organise your time.

Bucket lists are everywhere – I’ve written on this subject before, and again – whether they be attainable or bordering on ‘wildest dream’ territory, it is a nice neat way of organising your thoughts and giving yourself some kind of accountability for a lifetime of achievements and happiness.

But what of the “Five stages of…” or “Ten things to do…” or “Seven things holding you back…” type posts and stories which seem, to me, to be becoming more and more prevalent. I like them, no doubt I will write one myself at some point, and yet, at the same time, it sometimes irritates me to see yet another one pop up – like lazy journalism or jumping on a runaway bandwagon.

I read a New Yorker article on this very subject which points out that this is a very modern phenomenon and puts it in perspective by sharing some re-packaged historic news stories in list format, essentially for comic effect, e.g. “Nine Nazi atrocities that will make you question your faith in humanity!” There is something very jarring about that for sure.

That article goes on to get quite in depth about the scientific reason why our brains prefer things broken down into lists but one of the essential reasons which stood out for me was the idea of a list in some way combating information overload. I wrote my Masters dissertation on the subject of information overload so this really resonated and it makes so much more sense as to why this phenomenon is so distinctly 21st century.

Lists provide information in bite-sized chunks. In a world where you don’t pop down to the local shop and choose between a broadsheet or a tabloid and get the rest of your worldly knowledge from a library book or the Six O’Clock news on the BBC, but instead jump onto an Information Superhighway, we all need to rely on a few shortcuts. Maybe it is ‘News Lite’ or information ‘dumbed down’ but sometimes that really is the best way for us to digest the myriad of data we find ourselves wading through.

Now I don’t really know where else I’m going with this post so here’s a list of my favourite lists:

  1. Buzzfeed’s “33 most beautiful abandoned places in the world”
  2. Lifehack’s “10 things everyone needs to know in life
  3. My own top ten favourite movies of all time.
  4. Because we all need a good laugh and there is something genius about the stuff kids come up with: Huffington Post’ s “Funny (but true) answers children have given in exams
  5. Because I’m a serial hobbyist and I love at least the idea of learning new things, I think this list with links to resources to help you learn the “Top 10 highly-desired skills you can teach yourself” is great.

Apologies if you get nothing else done today 🙂


You Baby Me Mummy

10 thoughts on “Why do we love lists?

    • I wish I used lists more often and more effectively – it is definitely satisfying to end your day with a load of stuff ticked off! You do sound a bit…how should I say this… obsessive about it?! 🙂

    • I thought it was the perfect post for #thelist! I really do enjoy reading the other posts on there so I’m not sure why I feel uncomfortable with seeing yet another one. That list of photos of those places is stunning – they are really eerie..

  1. I know what you mean. I used to write a lot of list posts, and will no doubt write more in future, but I’ve gone off them. They feel a bit lazy and all about the headline. But I do understand why they are so popular, especially given your insight. Who doesn’t want to change their life in 5 easy steps?!
    Jude recently posted…Four-year-olds are too young to failMy Profile

  2. I’m a sucker for a good list, I have to admit. I know what you mean about them constituting lazy writing – although it’s the fundamental basis of Buzzfeed, so it obviously works! – but they can be good fun to both read and write, and they’re a good way of stopping yourself from rambling on too much. On my blog, I try to keep things mixed up so that I don’t do more than one list post every couple of weeks – I think they’re fine as part of a mix, but I do find I quickly tire of blogs which churn out nothing but lists.
    Tim recently posted…#SaveSyriasChildren and the good, bad and ugly of social mediaMy Profile

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