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Countdown obsession needs to stop

Let 2014 be the year we end our obsession with year-end countdowns and focus on real news.

The Internet has made it possible to mass-produce countdown lists and year-end reviews of every topic imaginable. These lists  include the generic New York Times list of best books of 2013, but also the strange list of the top 11 most awkward photos ever published in Sports Illustrated.

I understand the need to reflect, but the proliferation of such lists has become ridiculous. Mass media is the greatest perpetrator in the obsession of cataloguing useless bits of information. News sites are crammed with these catalogues when there is no absence of reportable news.

So why does the media do it? Countdowns are a form of cheap entertainment that is easy to manufacture and able to capture the attention of most readers. The list format makes the information accessible and easy to follow, which isn’t a bad thing in itself, but when coupled with insubstantial content makes for an article that amounts to little more than dribble.

It’s not just the mass media that should be blamed. Amateur videos and posts have expanded the number of reviews exponentially.  Instead of reading books we are compiling lists of the best books we have read. It’s narcissistic. A review of a book should not be treated as more important than the book itself.

I believe this trend stems from a need for connection that we can’t seem to satisfy in any other way than abusing the Internet to the point where we have a “Top 10 videos of Cats of 2013.” It says, “Look at what I think and agree with me so I can feel less alone.”

This situation reminds me of a time in high school when my school brought in a guest speaker to talk to us about the Internet. He discussed selfies and the fascination of taking pictures of oneself in a bathroom. He joked that if he had taken his parents’ camera when he was a teenager (the camera was a monstrous contraption) and lugged it into the bathroom and somehow angled it so that he could take rather embarrassing photos of himself, people would’ve thought he was unhinged.

Technology has made such self-obsession possible. Do you think that without the Internet one would be bombarded with the amount of ridiculous countdown lists as they are today? Just imagine newspapers wasting pages and pages on the “Top New Year’s Eve Displays of 2013” or broadcasts setting aside 15 minutes during their program to examine the “Top 10 ridiculous looks from the 2013 Tony Awards.”

These lists can be funny and interesting, but they need to be kept in perspective. They shouldn’t take the place of more important and current news stories on the home pages of websites and news organizations. They are a sideshow, and it’s the responsibility of both the media and ourselves to keep them in their proper place.