Friday, January 21, 2022

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Why is the Internet full of lists?

Headlines with numbers in them?

Pictures filling out social network feeds?

And what is with all the random bolded text on the Internet?

The answer to all of the above is your brain and eyes. Our eyeballs are naturally attracted to pictures over text, bulleted lists over four-sentence paragraphs, headings that promise exact values over ambiguity and areas of importance in text over uniform print.


Remember in school textbooks how pages broke information into color-coded sections with diagrams and bolded keywords? That is exactly what the Internet has become. Buzzfeed is huge because it has mastered all these techniques. At any point on Buzzfeed’s front page, a good deal of the headlines have numbers in them, promising listed information for easy consumption. Lists are akin to information junk food easy to consume and process for quick consumption.

Altogether these concepts form the idea of content duration. These sites discover all the juicy bits of the world and package them for annotated collections of information. By listing, numbering and bolding content, readers can basically speed-read the firehose of content available online and decide within seconds if the site they›re visiting has what they’re looking for. Certainly there are sites such as Upworthy and ViralNova that lure you in through headline trickery, but who’s to say using human intuition to deliver content isn’t just a new form of journalism?

Lists and Clickbait headlines won’t shrink your attention span, but more likely focus it. If the Internet is a virtual ocean of information, then its designers, content producers and programmers are studying how you possibly swim through it all. While that comes with a certain paranoia, it is ultimately a blessing. CV               

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

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