5 Reasons Listicles are Controversial

Written by Kevin Liew on 21 Jan 2018
11,597 Views • Miscellaneous

Listicles are perhaps the most controversial type of content one can publish today. Some love them, as they provide quick and easy content to consume and produce, while others think of them as something similar to clickbait, mostly for the same reason. Even though they are not the pinnacle of journalism and blogging, articles listing anything from the most popular mobile games of the year to the best gadgets, the telltale signs of various health problems, relationship issues, and beauty tips are loved by print publications and online media alike. But this controversy goes deeper than the perceived value of this type of content. Here are 5 reasons why listicles are considered controversial.

1. A lack of challenge

As I said above, listicles are quick and easy to consume. This makes them far less of a challenge for the readers' brains than a traditional article, considering that the author does all the research and the thinking, serving ready-made conclusions to the public.

Television puts the viewers' brains in "neutral mode", and listicles have a similar effect on the brain of a reader.

2. A lack of depth

The information content of listicles is pretty light, to say the least. They never dive deep into the topics they choose but barely scratch the surface, providing just enough information to spark the interest of the reader but never covering its topics in sufficient detail to convey true value.

The best example would be health-related listicles: they tell you that this food or that herb is good against that condition but never explain why.

3. A lack of substance

Eric Schwitzgebel, Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, once wrote about listicles that they squirt unifying harmonies in yogurt cups. Listicles tend to do this: they offer the brain bite-sized pieces of information that require little to no cognitive effort to consume, diverting the readers' energy from meaningful content with the potential to improve it.

4. They are opinions

Listicles are quite often very subjective, meaning that they express the opinions of an author rather than a series of nonpartisan facts. And readers often take them in as they are, without questioning them at all - after all, there's no use in arguing with an opinion. And quite often, they are not only an enumeration of facts about a certain topic but as an inducement trying to persuade the reader to choose in a certain way.

5. It makes you a lazy writer

Last but not least, let us look at listicles from the writer's point of view. As we mentioned before, listicles are pretty easy to create - they are the perfect filler for publications, especially if they are on a topic that is trending. The fact that they don't need to be deep, they don't need substance, and they are unlikely to be argued with makes them the simplest format to produce - and writing too many of them can turn a blogger or a journalist into a lazy wordsmith in the long run.

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