Disclaimer: this is not actually a fun, relatable, culturally unifying listicle. Sorry for the misleading title.
It seems every time I log into Facebook, I find articles shared with titles like “15 Words That Have Completely Different Meanings In Rhode Island” or “10 Awesome Things Only ’90s Kids Remember” or maybe “Top 25 Greatest Boston Sports Moments.” Despite recognizing that it’s clickbait, I inevitably click through the list and find myself smiling nostalgically at stock photos of snap bracelets or nodding sagely at the Rhode Island definition of “cabinet.”
But why are we drawn to these articles? Sure, I remember Curt Schilling’s infamous bloody sock, but did I really need to see it in a list to know that I’m a Boston sports fan? Obviously I know I was born in 1996 and I know I was raised in New England. So why do I click on lists like these whenever they appear on my newsfeed? Am I searching for confirmation that I really am a member of a specific category of people? Am I looking for validation of my shared experiences with my generation or my regional peers?
When I mentioned this phenomenon to my friend and fellow Culture Shocker Kobe, he suggested that perhaps this a coping mechanism used to deal with the passage of time. I think this is especially true in the case of (those damn) Millennials. We’ve grown up in a period of such dramatic change, specifically technological advancement, that I think we do look for a sense of comfort with each other in our memories of the days of dial-up and Game Boy Color. We lived through and remember 9/11, and the change in daily life that accompanied it. I remember being able to go to the airport terminal with my parents to drop my dad off for his business trips and watching the planes take off. We didn’t have to go through the extensive security checks, we could just walk up to the gate. Listicles glorifying the ’90s appeal to our nostalgia for what a simpler time, when we were young and the world didn’t seem so mean.
Another reason that I believe we are drawn to these types of articles is a search for community. It’s comforting to read something that you completely understand and agree with, and to know that someone else out there in the vast world of the Internet “gets” the same things you do. They’re relatable. I feel this way when I read listicles about Rhode Island or New England. I like knowing that someone else understands how great Awful Awful Mondays are or coffee milk or other quintessentially Rhody things. I’m reminded of my fondness and pride for my home, and I feel a connection with the faceless author of this meaningless clickbait article.
I know these listicles are ephemeral and of no real, lasting import. And whether or not you relate to every item on an arbitrary list does not qualify or disqualify you as a ’90s kid/New Englander/Red Sox fan. Your membership in these groups of people does not need validation from the authors of clickbait, you get to decide if you fall into those categories. Though it is still nice to know that there are other people who share common experiences with you.