10 Reasons Why We Love Top 10 Lists

10 Reasons Why We Love Top 10 ListsThey may have started with David Letterman. Our media-crazed, sound-bite culture eats them up. The blogosphere loves them because they generate ten times the clicks. Twitter followers can't retweet them fast enough.

We all love lists, especially the Top 10 variety. Here are 10 reasons why:

  1. They make us feel in control. It's probably more perception than reality - which is entropic, by nature - but lists seem to bring order to chaos. They keep us sane. All I know is control freaks love keeping lists, and so do lots of executives and CEOs I've worked with.
  2. Lists help us remember and organize our thoughts. Maybe I've got a touch of ADD, but if I don't write things down, they sort of get away from me. And when it comes to writing pretty much anything, lists or outlines - essentially sophisticated lists - help to organize multiple components into a single contiguous entity.
  3. They help us get things done. Some people swear by them and I, for one, really get off on knocking things off the to-do list, one by one. What a sense of accomplishment from something as simple as getting Carbonite to back up my PC.
  4. Making and posting them feeds our ego. It makes us feel important, as if our personal Top 10 list actually means something to others. Whether it does or doesn't, you still get a charge from putting it out there, don't you?
  5. Lists get people's attention. This is sort of empirical, since I have no data or even theory to back it up, but for whatever reason, lists get people's attention, as if there's a hidden force that guides their hand to click on the link - if the title interests us, of course.
  6. We love bullet points. I'm always telling people to present with images and less text, but for some reason, everyone gravitates to the old Powerpoint bullet point template. People go nuts for bullet points. Maybe part of the reason is they don't have to be grammatically correct sentences. Who knows?
  7. They're controversial. If you're going to do a list, you've got to have a few controversial points to get people riled up, laughing uncomfortably, whatever. Otherwise, why bother?
  8. Lists are a convenient tool for communicating a point of view. Most of us aren't trained to concisely communicate our point of view in a manner that everyone can understand. Lists are probably the best tool for doing that.
  9. They're flexible. Lists can be comedic, dramatic, even action-adventure oriented. Like a good movie, lists can fall into any category you want them to. Letterman's got the famous comedic example down pat and "bucket lists" are things you want to do before you die.
  10. They're gold for media sites. Media sites get advertising revenue based in part on page views, and if you structure a list as multiple clicks, that's more advertising bucks.
As for how 10 became the magic number, I say it's because 10 is the poster child for a nice round number, but your guess is as good as mine.

Inspired by 10 Reasons We Love Making Lists, by Linton Weeks.

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Image sam_churchill via Flickr