Given the backlash, it’s hard to admit that I can’t get enough of “25 Random Things About Me,” the annoying, addictive chain-letter-cum-confessional that got started on Facebook and now is taking over the world. Yes, it typifies what many don’t like about Facebook and Twitter — the over-sharing, time-sucking, sometimes self-indulgent posts, games, applications and invitations that go on without end. I was startled to read a calculation that, assuming it takes someone 10 minutes to come up with their list, roughly 800,000 hours of worktime productivity have been spent in what’s been called “an exercise in viral narcissism.” (Of course, the most surprising aspect is the assumption that a mere 10 minutes is enough to perfect one’s oh-so-random list.)
Then there’s the set-up; it’s a little disingenuous. You’re meant to tag 25 friends “because you want to know them better,” but most people who aren’t raging narcissists stick to close friends and family members. So, most likely, you’re talking to yourself.
Even so, most of the “25 Things” Lists I’ve read amused, entertained, surprised, or even moved me. I learned new things about my own sisters, cried with laughter over forgotten anecdotes, and faced up to a few quirks of my own, (see #25). When I peeked at lists of casual friends where I wasn’t among those tagged, it felt vaguely voyeuristic, but fascinating. A former colleague mentioned the loss of her father when she was three, slipped in between her love for pasta fagiole and Alicia Keyes. A childhood neighbor casually but poignantly referred to his coming-out. A relative’s list made me remember how much I really want to know her better, despite the fact we’re family.
But, in the end, it’s not just the sharing. It’s the sheer randomness. The bite-sized packaging, the juxtaposition of the silly, the profound, and the mortifying, and the ubiquity of the thing just make it irresistible. Like it or loathe it, get ready for a whole new crop of social network games…”25 Random Things” may be only the beginning.