09 December 2011

The Evil Top Lists

Let's face it. We have all succumbed to the simplicity and the doubtful usefulness of top-like lists at some point. These are usually numbered ideas of what it is considered top in a specific area of interest or disinterest. They come in different forms and derive from the use of various creative thinking (in)abilities.

I always find myself googling to find out the "best" or "top" choices and ideas for me. From trip destinations, gift ideas, new music directions to life-changing advice. But I can't stop thinking of the evilness of these simple writings. For starters, they are completely subjective to one person's or "expert" committee's opinion.

The worst kind of top-like lists falling under this critique are the ones rating musical greatness, be it instrumental, lyrical, or performance. I apologise for thinking that anyone who has ears and intact perceptual processes can be a critic of music. Okay, fair enough, there are people who need the additional push of having a higher IQ, especially if they are drawn to pop music (don't want to be repetitive but pop music requires none of the above). Furthermore, since when is talent measurable and reducible to lists? It certainly shows, but on the other hand what defines Jimi Hendrix's guitar playing greater than Jimmy Page's as to be placed on the top of all "best guitar players" lists? Is it perhaps his revolutionary approach to guitar playing? Or maybe his musical impact? Who knows?

My second critique to top-like lists is their restrictive nature. They push you into thinking "What if I don't like that? What if I have other preferences? Am I uncool or not expert enough? Or maybe I'm missing something here". I know I thought I missed something when I followed many top destination lists' advice and went to Lisbon. I'm sorry, but comparatively, Lisbon is no top and no destination for that matter (no offence, I still love the Portuguese).

Another evil side of top-like lists is the way they lure you into not thinking and not trying to figure solutions youself. For example, let's take the pretentious how to lists, especially the ones dealing with life changes. "How to become happier in 5 simple steps" or the more sought after "10 rules to loosing your belly fat". Give me a break! Happiness is not a five step plan and the belly fat will probably not go away by ruling out. Unless you are advanced enough to find a way to put a lock on your mouth, or modify your genes.

And for the irony of it I made my own lists of top-like lists and categorised them by usefulness.

Top 5 useful top-like lists:
1. 10 simple rules to being a human being
Because the truth is some of us do need some guidance in that area
2. 25 successful tips to tax evasion plus 5 bonus tips on cheating death 
Because you can't avoid either according to somebody who had too much free time that enabled them to come up with it
3. Top 5 ways of cooking potatoes
Because they are awesome
4. 50 hints that your life sucks
Because you can never be certain enough
5. Top 10 evolutionary advances you should already possess
Because you should

Top 5 useless top-like lists:
1. 5 techniques to impress a woman
Because they won't work
2. Top 100 pop songs of all time
Because they don't exist
3. 10 strategies to spice-up your sex life
Because you'll probably end up divorced or in hospital
4. 7 steps to a happier life
Because happiness is subjective and doesn't happen in steps
5. 15 ways to look cool
Because if you haven't got it, drop it

My point is, you live, you fail, and you learn. You don't need ready-made guides on music taste, happiness, dating, or whatever other "bestness" is served out there by people who have nothing better to do. If you cannot avoid it though, browse and enjoy the diverse evilness of different lists created by intelligent aliens seeking to take over the world.
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