Not long ago, a dear friend, who is a banker by profession forwarded a ‘top ten must visit before you die’ list – the sort one can find on just about every travel blog nowadays. I was about to revert with a snark but then, he’s a banker, and it’s not his forte to curate travel content before forwarding emails. Instead, the list effected a regression of my thoughts – to a time when travel implied discovering, not rediscovering and information search preceding a trip was in the same realm – often involving a visit to the library.
This wasn’t too long back, even after after computers and the internet became widely available. As late as ’05 when I first attempted blogging, more travel blog-posts dealt with telling a story – usually the narrator’s own. Top ten lists implied an obligation, and ‘to-do’s’ were reserved for websites of fashion magazines warning against sartorial faux pas and those of weight loss clubs.
Cut to the present day, as the internet gets crowded and slower – attention spans reduce, travel bloggers – professionals perhaps especially but many others too – seem to have a consensus that their chances of digital stardom would be multiplied if they can capture our attention and hold it awhile. Further, sadly, they think use of trickery and force to do so is an acceptable option.
So like a ringmaster facing that Amur Tiger, bent on securing obedience, the blogger shouts instructions. The Tiger has only two more stools to climb – or so he’s told – but of course once he does that, there’s another hoop to jump, even taller. The king has seen it all, so he plays along, reluctantly, optimistic only for the loaf that awaits. Quietly, with each threat verbal or whip physical, he is angrier, though no one can tell.
I dont have anything against lists, per se. They are useful within limits and quite the norm on business websites. Top ten home loans – sure. Top ten cars – bring it on. Top ten iPhone covers – I can probably take that. Top ten things to do in New York – I’m afraid I have an urgent appointment.
This burgeoning tyranny of lists is inescapable and has crept into the blogosphere- from Shiva temples to seat rash avoidance creams – if you can remotely link it with travel, someone somewhere has done a ‘top ten’ for you! Copied content is so commonplace that the single original entry is usually presented the last.
As if it wasn’t enough that our vacations are getting shorter and busier, even the joyfully indulgent pursuit called armchair travel and the associated thrills of vicarious discovery are increasingly suppressed by the top ten list makers. In this forced optimization of leisure time, there’s another unintended victim – the places you might miss visiting on a maiden trip – they used to give you an excuse to go back – alas the list makers got to him too.
Ignorantly denying the tiger his freedom was a collective crime, forcing behavioral change on him only make it worse. One day he will leave the circus altogether and find a jungle where he can roam free – as far as his body and mind would take him.
Do you, dear travel blogger, assume that we, your readers, are incapable of keyword search in google? Well If we didn’t need help with our shoelaces, certainly we don’t need a ‘must’, a ‘should’ ,an ‘ought’ or another modal to dictate how we are obliged to spend this years vacation or indeed form our bucket list.
Please amend the title of that post you thought comes across as catchy – it mostly makes us hit that little kill switch on the top right.
Well, what do you, the reader of this post think? I’d love to hear from you.