Casual Friday: In defense of #25Things

If you’re on Facebook at all, you’ve probably seen the “25 Things” meme that’s been floating around. In it, people list 25 random facts about themselves, and suggest that their friends do the same. It’s so popular it was recently profiled (and trashed) in Time Magazine.  Claire Suddath says

Facebook is a loose social network; a “friend” on Facebook might translate to someone you’d barely recognize in real life. I don’t care that my college roommate’s sister is anemic or that my stepcousin’s boyfriend gets nervous around old people.

Ashley Stockett on twitter says

It’s like those email forwards that started circa 1996…”what’s your fav. brand of toothpaste…”

I’m trying to figure out where all the hate is coming from.  When these things went around via email back in the day, it was clearly a massive waste of resources.  The endless chain of forwards basically made sure you never really got to read the lists written by the people you cared about, and you often got emailed from multiple people with subtle variations, etc.  So don’t get me wrong, I always have hated and still do hate meaningless chain emails.  I don’t really like the “tag” mechanism on Facebook for trying to pressure people into writing their own lists (I used “tag” to notify people I mentioned them in my list).  But the activity itself?  It’s awesome.  And here’s why.

If you don’t want to read about your “college roommate’s sister” you don’t have to pay attention to the notes she creates.  You probably don’t care about anything she’s doing on Facebook, so it seems more likely that your problem is with having her as a friend, not in that she happened to publish a document that you don’t care to read.

See, that’s the beauty of it.  I don’t get emails and pushy requests from dozens of different people who have my address.  I write my list, I read the lists of others who are interesting to me, and that’s it.  Heck, I can even use Facebook privacy settings to control who can read my note, down to the individual level if desired.  And what payoff is there?

Relationships deepen.  For example, I learned that an extended family member, who is about to enter college and made some statements that really hit home with me and reminded me of some things I felt when I was his age.  I was able to make contact, share some experiences, and deepen a family connection I never would have had time to deepen until we connected to each other via Facebook.

To the haters I say this: if you’re annoyed by the “25 Things” meme, and other memes like it, it’s possible, to quote another meme, that “you’re doing it wrong.”

(I do feel compelled to add that I understand several reasons people dislike this meme.  One is that it gives Facebook more information about you, gives their advertisers more information about you, than you might want to give.  Another is that if your or a friend’s account is hacked your personal information is now available, perhaps leading to real world problems depending on what information you share. Use Facebook responsibly, please. I’m not advocating recklessness, just having a little fun.)

2 comments ↓

#1 tracker19 on 02.06.09 at 10:07 am

Fish on >>>
I enjoyed your anti-rant. I also enjoyed doing my “25 things” note on facebook. – Sure, I tagged someone who politely declined, but that’s OK – I learned my buddy, the principal “doesn’t do lists” –

AND I totally agree re: FB privacy.
1: Don’t assume you have any privacy by default
2: Learn to use the “Privacy Settings” – otherwise every friend, friend of friend AND their networks will find you.
3: Be careful (selective) with gadgets

<<< Fish-off

#2 Brian on 02.06.09 at 1:01 pm

Great point Dave. I did one, some people don’t. Doesn’t bother me much either way.

But you’re right – I’m not sure what goes through the heads of the people that criticize those who do.

I suspect a lot of it has to do with our struggle of work/life balance and trying to keep your work peers/friends at a little bit of a distance – telling your boss that you once had a crush on a girl named Ginger doesn’t necessarily get you a promotion.

Underlying reason they don’t post is fear and uncertainly. And that’s OK. They just aren’t cool enough to “get it” yet :^)