Written on Tuesday,
February 1st, 2011
Lists are a big deal. Lists about why you should or should not purchase, what you should or should not consume, toss, recycle, elect, design, redesign, explode or turn into a bacon are an even bigger deal. Lists should all over you. Everyone has an opinion. While lists soliciting you to adopt the beliefs of it’s writer have their place, more often than not they will never fully apply to you. So here’s my 5 reasons why lists of 5 reasons to do anything don’t matter.
1. You Have A Brain
At least I think you do. The automatic assumption is that you need to be told what to think, feel or act upon. Perhaps you weren’t previously aware of this product or issue, and the list item in question actually does inform you. But from that point on it’s up to you — your preferences, your life, your socio-economic classification, your sex, your position (not your sex position though, that’s a private matter andvwhatnot) — to determine how any information applies to your life.
2. You Are Biased
One likes to believe that a writer comes from a position of unbiased objective, or at least ambivalence. Sadly as a human being it is impossible to not have a preconceived view or belief on just about anything. We all find favor or disfavor with anything based on our accumulative act of being alive. Perhaps you don’t like pepperoni pizza because that one time in 2nd grade when you ate 15 pieces to show your friend Scotty that you weren’t a chump and threw it all up that night. How could you then objectively write a review of pepperoni pizza? You couldn’t. Whenever you see a review about a product or service remember you both (the reader and author) are approaching the subject with extreme bias; if you think otherwise you’re just being biased toward yourself.
3. You Are Being Sold Something
Perhaps you’re not being sold a literal product or service, but you are (at the very least) being sold on a premise. I’m doing that right now. I’m using my limited wit and literary skills to convince you that opinion lists are pointless; whereby also making my own list the same (and perhaps the paradox will create whirling vortex of sustainable energy thus solving our impending energy crisis and our eventual doom). Those lists about reasons by the new iPhone 4 is flawed or why Verizon will be available on the iPhone (and now we’re getting the root of my “irk-ed-ness”), just remember they’re selling you their opinion — which isn’t to say it isn’t valid, but that it isn’t without motive.
4. You Want To Fit In
No one likes to be labeled. I’m not a hipster or a entrepreneur or a soccer dad (is that a something?). None of us are just one label, but we certainly have a few that we desire to wear. We’ll think twice about something based on that label in a desire to fit in (even the desire to not fit in is a label called contrarian, or hipster, or grumpy old man). If someone you respect or admire or just want to be like — because they’re rich or famous — says something you’ll instinctually want to conform to that opinion. For instance when Steve Jobs says “You’re holding it wrong” I automatically think “Of course I am, Steve makes my world an easier, happier, prettier place; and I trust his brand, plus I love black turtlenecks in the dead of summer; I AM holding this thing wrong”.
5. You Like Balance
I really don’t have a number 5. There, I said. But hey, I’m being honest. I needed a number 5 to make a point about how a list of 5 always looks better than a list of 4 (or a list of 10 better than 9, and so on and so forth). You’ll find that a list will get weaker toward the end in an effort to appeal to your sense of balance and uniformity. To sound like an authority, you have to use appealing numbers. I’m not an authority (except perhaps on sarcasm).
So the next time you see a list about the “10 Things That Are Horrible About Reading Books” or “5 Ways To Grill Spaghetti”, remember these 5 things — and then disregard them because you’re an individual and you’ll form your own opinions. I hope.