In Defense of Facebook’s Hated “25 Random Things” Writers

In the last couple of days, I’ve read more negative rants about Facebook’s 25 Random Things About Me meme than I’ve read actual lists of 25 things. Writers from the New York Times and Time Magazine jumped on the anti-list bandwagon, as did writers like Tod Goldberg, who spared no vitriol in his version of the meme, 25 Random Things I Hate About Fucktards On Facebook I Don’t Know In The Least But Who, Nonetheless, Are My Friends.   Judging by the comments on Goldberg’s site, and the number of anti-25 Things diatribes that are now being posted on Facebook, it would seem that many people agree:  List writers are fucktards.  Or, as the New York Times more dramatically stated, “A chain-letter-cum-literary exercise called ’25 Random Things About Me’  is threatening to consume what little remaining free time and privacy we have.”

Apparently, some people take their social media a little too seriously, likening it to an unpleasant necessity, like watching American Idol or taking out the trash.  They seem to forget that things like Facebook are voluntary and filled with choices — like who you choose to include as friends, and whose notes you choose to read.   It’s not as if 25 Things lists pop up out of cyber-space and grab you in a choke hold until you’re forced to know who likes whitey-tighties and who likes to dress in drag as Madeline Albright on Friday nights.   No, in order to read those personal tidbits, readers have to click on a link.

I’m not fond of memes, but I don’t fear that they’re going to “consume” my private life or enslave my being. I think it’s ridiculous that the subject of social media irritants even makes the news in major publications.  Then again, I also think it’s weird that photographers fall all over each other to snap Donatella Versace’s bikini-clad body or Britney’s every gas station outing. I think it’s so freaky that I don’t buy those rags — but I totally admit to being a supermarket aisle voyeur.  And people who take issue with Facebook’s 25 Things should admit that the only reason they’re irritated with the lists is not because they exist, but because they couldn’t resist the urge to read them.

Maybe they felt ripped off when they learned that some of their internet friends were boring, un-gifted, pathetic, or perverse.  Maybe, like Tod Goldberg, they were surprised to learn that the people who liked them, and sent them friendship requests, weren’t necessarily the smartest or brightest people on the internet.

“I hate that sometimes I read your updates and think, Man, if this person is a fan of mine, I need to stop writing books. Because apparently only complete fucktards read my books.” – Tod Goldberg

It seems like the quest for internet popularity often works against common sense. The ability to have thousands of “friends” on Facebook (or followers on Twitter) gives the illusion of interest, often without any interest at all, or at least not the kind that is mutual.  Public figures like Goldberg may use Facebook or Twitter as a way to keep fans in the loop, but more commonly, social sites are just that — social.  People generally join to communicate, share their thoughts and work, and learn about others with similar interests.   Others, of course, join hoping to cross-sell their business or blogs by gathering as many internet friends or followers as they can, wanting nothing more than their links to be spread by Facebook sharing, or Twitter “re-tweets”.  These are the people that tend to complain the most.  They have no interest in the lives or projects of others, but will send out and accept droves of friendship requests in order to bolster that bottom line number that indicates popularity.

It’s amusing to me that the list writers have been called narcissistic or self-obsessed for sharing some odd facts of their lives in a voluntary forum.  It would seem to me that the most narcissistic people aren’t those who wrote the lists, but those who damned them.  It reminds me of the Marlon Brando quote — “An actor’s a guy who, if you ain’t talking about him, ain’t listening.”   So in defense of the list writers who wrote their 25 Things in the spirit of sharing or friendship, I offer my list of Five Reminders for Snarky, Pompous, and Overzealous Facebook Users:

1.  Facebook is voluntary. I think that bears repeating.
2.  You don’t have to friend everyone who asks.
3.  You can de-friend anyone who bores, annoys, or doesn’t interest you.
4.  If you only want a fan page, get one.
5.  If you don’t want to read something, don’t click the link.

And if you ever really feel that Facebook is “threatening to consume what little remaining free time and privacy” you have, it might be time to shut off the computer and write a list of 25 reasons you’ve gotten totally ridiculous.

This article also appears on the Huffington Post.
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22 comments

  1. I was tagged seven times in Facebook for the 25 Things note. I finally did it last night and felt like a fucktard, but didn’t want to seem elitist by not participating. I love this post. You’re so reasonable and fair about it. Thanks. Feeling a little less like a fucktard…

  2. Well I came looking…hoping…wanting a wtf Friday….I guess this sorta fits the bill..posted on FRIDAY ? Great Post Jane! I think I have said ‘just don’t click on it then!” a million times over the past couple of years!

  3. Chris, I enjoyed reading the lists, and didn’t find any fucktards among my friends. Then again, I don’t have many. :-)

    Thanks, Noelle!

    Loony, should I bring back WTF Fridays? It’s not for lack of material that they ended, I just didn’t think that many people were into them.

  4. YES! I have missed them!
    btw…I find reading those lists interesting too, especially when there is humour added…but I am tooo lazy to ever do them!

  5. Okay I admit I was actually the first person who tagged Jane, and it was early in the spreading of this meme….and as a shock to the people complaining about facebook, I tagged people on my list who I really wanted to know more about becasue I was interested in them. How naive was I? I tagged Jane, I tagged a guy from highschool (class of 1981 LOL) who had friended me a couple days before who I had seriously not seen or spoken to since 1981, I tagged a woman who is on my friends list that I have never met in person but had robust and interesting conversations in the format of an online text role playing game we have both participated in for over 2 years….In my head it was kind of like thgowing a cocktail party, at least in my world where people often do throw out random and interesting tidbits, like I learned two of my friends have a running joke about the location of Guam. Jane, at the time, sent me a polite note saying hey thanks but no thanks. Iwasn’t hurt, in fact I believe my response was well I didn’t figure you would but I was curious enough to try or something along those lines.

    I think these people are looking to get attention or as I call it borrowing drama.

    Great post Jane!!!

  6. This is such a great post, particularly so after a firestorm I inadvertently provoked yesterday on my Facebook page by someone offended at a political posting. Yikes. I won’t go into it here but it was really something! I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  7. Well, maybe I am a fucktard with too much time on my hands, but I truly enjoyed reading every one of the 25 Random Things lists in which I was tagged. And I truly enjoyed writing my own. And I truly enjoyed the comments everyone else posted on all the lists I read and the one I wrote.

    I guess I’m never going to write for the NY Times.

  8. Jane,

    Thanks for writing this because I have been thinking about that infamous “fucktard” facebook entry ever since Linda posted it.
    I mostly laughed at Tod’s opinions and yes, I even passed the link on to my friends, and others as well, because it was extra negative and something I’d not read anything like before – it was a pretty rough ram up the ass for being his social network right? That made it funny in a way.
    But then I couldn’t help but think the same thing you did…what the hell are you responding for? and why do you have Facebook anyhow? and are these people you call fucktards actually your friends?
    And after I stewed on it a little I thought it, and the other negative posts about the 25 list online, were just really this superior sort of “look at my list – it’s nasty ’cause I am so far above you in life and experience.”
    I say blah blah blah…I mean come on! Why can’t we just have a fun social networking site that is possibly a little lame and a little self gratifying and even somewhat high schoolish at times? If one only includes the peeps they actually care about their status etc…it IS fun and interesting. Why can’t we just dig it and say it proudly? I FB and Twitter and Flickr and Blog and I am proud of it! : )

  9. I’m not on Facebook or Twitter, but I’ve been on other networking sites, and there’s always a group of people that take things too seriously, or who down others for using it in a way they deem not appropriate. I agree with you 100%. Don’t read what bothers you and the problem is solved!

    I also find it weird that this was on the NYT and in Time magazine. Which only I think proves your point about how seriously people take these social sites!

  10. 25 things….it’s so 5-minutes ago.com
    don’t ya’ll remember when it was an email?

    it’s frivolous and juvenile at times and damn it wouldn’t be the same if someone wasn’t complaining about how lame it is. THAT’S THE BEAUTY OF IT. i read them….i read them all. it makes me happy that people want to connect…share…even if others have the gall to deem it some sort of national crisis. please.

    let’s face it, Tod is having a little tantrum because he can’t come up with 25 interesting things to say about himself. sure, be a complete dick and call it humor, but interesting? nope. nicht. nada. zilch. but i bet he’s happy when the fucktards line up at book signings, right?

  11. Actually I like reading stuff like that and when I don’t I uh… news alert….don’t read it. Some people put a lot of humor and wit into their lists and I think that’s great. Sometimes I find out things about people that I had no idea about and it’s a nice opening to ask more questions. What’s interesting to me is that there is some type of anti list movement happening that I didn’t know about. LOL I guess that makes me a Fucktard huh? But seriously isn’t kind of writing about how much you hate the lists kind of the equivalent of answering one? With everything else happening in the world to feel angry about I find it amusing that a list on Facebook is something that sets you off. Of course I am the one that just complained on her own blog about the stickers on fruit so??? LOL
    Julia
    p.s. I liked the WTF Friday too. Hey maybe that should be a new Facebook topic to pass around. If you do it don’t send it to Tod though! From the sound of things he might implode. :)

  12. Okay Loony & Julia, I’ll see what I can do about bringing WTF Fridays back. :-)

    Kate, I always say no! LOL. Still, I ended up doing one eventually because I enjoyed reading the others.

    Elizabeth, I saw your comment on Noelle’s FB about that situation. I don’t get why someone would think that attacking you for your political views on FB is in any way appropriate.

    Erika, I’ll never write for them. either.

    Barb – yes!

    Kris, I love that — so five minutes ago. I’m stealing it for future use.

  13. Actually, Kris, I don’t like it when the fucktards line up at booksignings, either. There’s plenty of evidence about that on my blog, too. I pretty much don’t like fucktards to be party to any of my experiences. I do not like them at booksignings. I do not like them on facebook. I do not like them in a boat. I do not like them with a goat. I do not like them on a float. I do not like them when I vote. I do not like them when they gloat. I do not like them when they are nothing more than a mere zygote. I do not like them in an overcoat. I do not like them when they eat Italian and begin to bloat.

    And, in terms of reading comprehension, you might want to go back and look at what I wrote. I said I was tired of being tagged. Not tired of reading them. I love to read them. Because that way I can be certain who, precisely, is a fucktard and not a mere annoyance. It’s actually quite educational.

  14. um, yeah, tod…still not funny.
    plus, you can’t have it both ways. if they didn’t tag you then how would you know to read them? or perhaps you are the stalker…..

  15. I love this post.

    Yes, what mainstream media and many culture critics hate about social media (incl. blogging) is that it is by and for the masses. It crosses boundaries and throws the “pros” in with the uncertified, unwashed, unpublished, and not properly credentialed OTHERS who may be just as interesting and talented (perhaps MORE SO) than they are.

    The Establishment has lost control, and this is the root of their discomfort and criticism. The country club is open to everyone.

    Sometimes the degrading comments made about social media remind me what was said when rock and roll arrived on the scene, when “nice” white young people started listening to “Negro Music,” when girls started having sex and not lying about it, when a generation rose up and dared to say they didn’t want what their parents had, they wanted to be free.

    Plus, as you happily point out, it is all voluntary, it is what you make of it. I use my fb account for socializing with people I know, and I turn down friends request sometimes. If social media is “meaningless,” it is because someone is participating in a “meaningless” way.

    When my children attended a Christian school, I would occasionally get approached by Concerned Parents wanting me to join some TV lobbying group to improve programming. I used to look at them and say, “If you don’t like what’s on television, turn off the TV. If you don’t like rap music, don’t listen to it. If you disapprove of gay marriage, don’t marry a gay.” Seemed simple enough to me, but once again, it’s a CONTROL issue for others.

  16. V, that is such a valid point about the country club mentality. I found it very prevalent among literary magazines, most of which base their selections on bios and networking nepotism than talent. Perhaps the worst example I ever experienced was with Amherst College’s Peregrine. A few years ago I submitted a piece that was rejected. No big deal — it’s more common than not. However, when it was published and I got my copy, I was stunned by some of the worst stories and poetry I had ever encountered. A tiny poem called Petunia Red went something like this Petunia red/ I love you/ roll me over in the morning/ soak me in your morning dew. I did a little research and found out that the poem was written by the editor of several poetry books that had published the work of Peregrine’s editor.

    Dis poem be bad / dis poem be da bomb was another terrible piece — written by one of the editor’s students.

    People often mistake publishing credits with talent. It’s not altogether true. While I think it takes talent to maintain a long and successful career, or at least commercial appeal, it doesn’t take much more than “who you know” to get a foot in the door and a handful of minor credits, particularly if you’re involved with academic literary ventures.

  17. Great post!

    I saw the lists everywhere but it didn’t take up one second of my precious time because I simply chose not to read them or DO one myself.

    I don’t see how it became such a big deal to the people ranting about it. Maybe they need to get a better friends list.

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