Ever since Moses came down from Sinai with the Top Ten social no-nos in the eyes of the almighty we have been compiling our favorites into a decimal hierarchy for the elucidation and criticism of others. Today’s postaday 2011 questions asks if these lists are lame or awesome but, after giving that question some consideration the jury is still out. All that I can decide is that top ten lists seem to be here to stay with a vengeance. A quick perusal of google will turn up hundreds of these lists and there are so many top10 sites on the web that it would be useful to compile a top ten list of top ten list sites on the web. This got me thinking about why people make top ten lists in the first place.
Ten Reasons for Making a Top Ten List
1 To enumerate the comparative quality of a group of things. Whenever we are presented with a choice we judge and qualify it, grouping things into good, better, best, listing the things by their quality so that we can make a more satisfying choice.
2 Listing the top ten of something defines a limit of which ones are truly the best out of a selection that may be quite large such as movies.
3 Top ten lists determine the hierarchy of importance of the listed things either from the perspective of from the top down or from the bottom up. So the top ten list of the most powerful people in an organization might be seen from 1 to 10 whilst the top ten list of things that you need to do to get to the top of the first list might be studied from 10 to 1.
4 Top ten lists create a quick frame of reference rather like a bullet point presentation with extra emphasis. So a sales pitch might use a top ten reasons to buy my product list to enumerate the quality and desirability of the goods.
5 Top ten lists satisfy the need that people have for order in the universe. They collect data about life into neat little packages and grade them into usable bite sized ideas. Once we are secure with our top ten best movies, or we have fixed the top ten rock songs firmly in our minds we are more comfortable in a confusing world that seems on the surface to be chaotic.
6 Making top ten lists present an interesting diversion, a challenge and a good deal of mental exercise for folk who like that sort of thing. Musing over the finer points of ice-cream flavors or murder mysteries to assemble top ten hierarchies takes a considerable amount of concentration and contemplation before decisions can be accurately plotted into a supreme ten. I imagine that it is rather like the feeling of accomplishment that is derived from successfully filling out the crossword in the Sunday extra is for other people.
7 Top ten lists are a means of measuring ourselves against others (other list makers at least). Comparing one’s own top ten favorite footballers or reckoning your own list of most desirable automobiles with another’s is a means of determining our place in our social circles, how cool we are. In fact a great deal of life is spent constructing and editing the top ten list of reasons that people think I’m a groovy dude/dudette.
8 Another reason that we make top ten lists is because they are there. Some people are just compelled to make lists. In fact I have known people that make so many lists that they really need to make a list of their lists.
9 A major reason that people make top ten lists is sheer laziness. It is a lot easier to make up a lame top ten list than it is to write a lengthier piece that covers the same material.