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.