The internet appears to have an obsession with “listicles.” If you spend any time on sites like Buzzfeed, Cracked, ThoughtCatalog, or MentalFloss, you know what I’m talking about. Listicles are lists that are detailed enough to be considered an article- hence, the portmanteau of “list” and “article.” Most notably, the aforementioned sites have made them a part of their daily repertoire. There are even sites like Listverse, which is dedicated solely to lists on just about everything related to culture, science, history, technology, and life in general. I am interested in exploring these detailed lists and their place in digital writing.
Lists as we think of them tend to be practical or a way to keep track of things, such as shopping, tasks to complete, things you want, or guests for an event– all things that exist in a personal and useful context. Internet lists like the ones seen on Cracked, MentalFloss, and occasionally Buzzfeed tend to be trivia-oriented, and generally have some sort of educational value (Cracked’s 21 Beloved Famous People Everyone Forgets Did Awful Things or Buzzfeed’s 42 Incredibly Weird Facts You’ll Want to Tell People Down the Pub). You’ll often see practical applications as well, like “workouts you can do at home,” or my favorite, the constant stream of 20+ item lists of unbelievably wonderful-sounding recipes put out by BuzzfeedFood.
However, there are a lot of irrelevant, distracting, and useless ones out there. Who really needs to see Buzzfeed’s “26 Disney Characters Reimagined as Hogwarts Students,” or ThoughtCatalog’s “The Girl You’re Pretending to Be on Instagram”?
Texts: My primary texts/materials will be the aforementioned websites (Cracked, Buzzfeed, ThoughtCatalog, Listverse, etc.), as well as shorter, more to-the-point lists. I’ll also want to look at print versions of “listicles,” as they show up in magazines and other print media as well.
Question/Problem: I’m most curious to know…
- What makes this listing style so popular online, especially in a context that could be seen as distracting or pointless?
- Why do people decide to use this instead of just writing about stuff without dividing it up?
- What stylistic choices- tone, use of images, length, etc.- do writers use? Are there differences when you look at online vs. print? One website vs. a different website? Staff posts vs. community posts?
- Ranked, thematic, and random listicles- how do they differ stylistically? Why?
Format: A list or series of lists, of course! Likely on a WordPress/Tumblr sort of platform.
Model Texts: Once I decide if it’ll be just one big list or a series of small ones, I’ll decide if I want to model after a certain website’s format, or not. I would like to try to imitate the general style of Cracked or Buzzfeed.
Questions/Concerns: I have a tendency to think of something and get very excited about it without thinking it through totally. Plus, I often am too narrow or too broad in my topic choices, or don’t ask the right questions. In this case, I also chose something that I may not be quite qualified to talk about, as I don’t study language or writing in a great depth. I just have a general frame of an idea, and will probably need to flesh it out a bit more or pare it down. I’m really interested to hear what you guys think, or any thoughts you have to offer.