Thoughts: Listless Listing over Lists – or how to keep sight of the bigger picture

Hurriedly flicking through Flipboard on my phone, I read the headline to The Guardian‘s piece today on Tipper Gore’s clumsy and cack-handed attempt in the Eighties to create a wagon circle around America’s WASP families such was her fear of rocker Blackie Lawless, his depraved ilk and their cans of hairspray. My blood boiled.

The horror was not due to Mr Lawless being raked over the coals yet again over that well-documented misdemeanour involving a chicken drumstick and a Redwood tree.

Reading through the thorough article, I found it was an interview/update on the lasting effects of the black-stickered censorship of the PRMC rather than simply a list of fifteen X-rated aural nasties emanating from Prince, Judas Priest and Sabbath.

My rage subsided to an acceptable level. I uncrossed my legs and rolled my shoulders back. I could type and drink my tea without choking.

The source of this red mist? The thought of yet another bleedin’ listicle (second-worst annoyance being another blogpost of complaint of course).

Ten Ways To Harvest A Cat; Five Songs You Didn’t Know Could Soundtrack Your Funeral; How To Pebbledash Your Bathroom In Five Easy Moves… this is what we have come to. From its creation to now, the list and its icle have taken over. We are a world in apparent agreement that we should hack, steal, copy, imitate in order to succeed, aren’t we?

Our attention spans have taken a hammering over the past few years such is the attraction of shiny new devices to our magpie eyes. Flitting frenetically to a latest, sparsely-revised edition of a story – or combing the net for a new bit of gossip on someone we never cared for ten years ago, will not remember in a year and who has no deep-seated feelings for us either way – it feels that the time for lengthy rumination and deep reflection belongs to our antecedents rather than us.

Shorn of those societal structures and frameworks which previous generations would look to for guidance (‘No to knives unless you’re carving; yes, brown shoes can be worn with a black or blue suit; you only need two WKDs not twenty), columnists, agony aunts and uncles and websites have stepped into the breach to hold our collective hands as we nervously make our way through the dark forest of life.

However we define ourselves as people or communities though, are we so devoted to the short-term, the temporary, the snark, the quick fix, the meh, the need to take advice and recycled tips? At the risk of sounding like a well-intentioned hippy with a broadband and too much time on his hands, I desperately feel an urge to confidently and boldly shout type ‘not in my name’.

Count me out of the ‘Save Your Offshore Savings From The Taxman In Two Easy Steps‘ group; no notifications please. Let me muddle on by myself. If I want to know how to lobotomize myself, I’ll devise a method. I know yours is a great way, and any accidental death will be much less painful, but I want the satisfaction of knowing I drilled the holes, I passed out when the drill passed through my hippocampus not because you told me to do it in your bloody list.

Therefore here is a suggestion on why you should avoid, tear down and extricate yourself from listicles in order to have a more productive life.

Just as your parents/teachers/local ne’r-do-wells always stressed how unique a person you were so it behoves you to act in your own way, be your own person. Stick to your own hobbies, methods and pleasures however dull/strange/disastrous they are.

Be prepared: finding success (cat harvesting or whatever) is likely to take longer; it will often be solitary and incredibly un-glamorous. You might become sidetracked or even not able to complete this task. In doing so, you might discover a new interest, a new side to yourself you never knew about, a yen to break out of the norm?

Or ignore this advice. Shut down the browser, move away from your desk and go out to smell the dog shit blossom.

Either way, you can swallow shallow puff pieces which promise but often fail to deliver (inadvertently aiding and abetting the culture of creating content that simply riffs off someone else’s original material to no real, lasting purpose) or be that gold star-red smartie-original thinker your folks always thought you were?

(DISCLAIMER: may involve visiting libraries or ironmongers. Safety equipment, such as glasses, a cushion for your behind and a big heart, is recommended.

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