7. Lists give the false sense that the world is orderly and can be ranked and quantified. Just like dogs, people like order and authority. Even when it’s clearly irrational or arbitrary. Why else would there be religion, dance and singing contests, and Rick Perry?
6. The list’s ascending or descending countdown makes you feel like you’re moving up or down or forward. People like to feel like they’re moving somewhere. It means they’re not dying. But the truth is, who the fuck really made the list? Some intern at Vogue? A writer at some website. Trust me, they wrote the list in like two minutes before they went to meet college friends at some bar that used to be a pharmacy.
5. Tits! (The pattern of the list is easy to break for comedic or dramatic effect.)
4. If you get bored, well, guess what? There’s only a quantifiable number left. In this case, three. Are you really going to stop now? I don’t think you have it in you. You’ve clicked this page, there’s only three left … if there were 60 left or even 20 you might hit the bricks, but three? No way.
3. Most lists have one item that is clearly ranked too high or too low. This creates an opinion in the reader that creates emotional engagement. “How can they put that so low?!” or “Why is that so high?! That shortstop didn’t dive that far for the ball!” Everything in our consumer culture is about emotional engagement. Which emotions are engaged doesn’t matter. Everyone hates Comcast. Even some animals and inanimate objects hate Comcast. But the company is worth billions and its name recognition is through the roof.
2. At this point does it really matter? There’s no way you’re not looking at number one. You and I both know this “meta list riff” has run out of gas … But you’re in it now. And we’ve got your page view, which has already been converted to revenue so Will Ferrell can buy his five-year-old mink PJs.
(OK, it was a dick move to leave number one blank, yes. But the bigger question is, “Why did you need there to be a number one?” Let’s face it, democracy as we know it has only been around for what, 200 years? You and me and everyone still have some serf and peasant floating around in our DNA. We crave hierarchies. Who’s the most successful? Who’s the hottest? What’s the best, coolest, or most expensive? Is there any chance that these rankings are the meaning or value of life? No way, but man, is it comforting. Kind of a chalupa for the soul.
Alright, fuck it … number one is Courtney Cox.)