The Media cares about your 25 Things?

So I’ll admit, I turned to some sensationalism for this post. 1) It’s not really the media, per se, just the blogosphere and 2) they care about the phenomenon, not those 25 random facts about you. Given that, though, it’s true. I came across a response article about it on techdirt.

But first, if you’re not familiar with it, 25 Things is note going around on Facebook right now. Notes (basically FB’s version of a blog) allows a user to put whatever video/text/pictures into a post and have their friends see it. As a method of writing for your friends (assuming you’re college age), it’s far better than a blog because, at least, most of my peers check FB far more than any other site. It’s why I import my blog into FB (where I would assume most of you read it from). And you can tag friends on a note so that they get a notification that you’ve written something. So, 25 Things is essentially a chain post going around where one writes 25 random things about his or her own life, then tags 25 friends to do the same.

While there was a decent chance that I would never have made it to seeing this because I neither use FB much nor am cool enough to get tagged, I did receive a couple. I had seen on my newfeed that a couple of my friends had written these before then, and at first, the thread seemed to similar enough to the surveys that come in and out of fashion on FB. Oddly enough, this particular thread has persisted, though mostly from my high school friends in Texas, not with my college friends here (though maybe I’m just far cooler back in Texas than here).

I usually dismiss these chain notes, but this one, I actually somewhat like. I will guiltily admit that I’m somewhat of a leech in this sense: I’ve been thoroughly enjoying reading other people’s posts, yet I haven’t filled one out myself. I likely wouldn’t have thought of it, except that many of my friends who have done it have reluctant sounding titles, like “I wasn’t going to do this…” or “Only Because I’ve Been tagged 400 times”. And it keeps perpetuating. Naturally, no one should be surprised about the power of peer pressure here. And when there’s a good opportunity to procrasinate for 5 minutes on FB to fill this out, that can sound a lot better than doing that history homework. But it keeps perpetuating.

What I think makes this thread different from any other is that it has actual content. Previous survey chain threads often had some bizarre, theme, like, “x all the movies you’ve seen” or “put your itunes on shuffle and answer questions based on title.” Maybe it’s a good time waster, but frankly, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care about first crushes (exponentially with respect to how long ago that was), and I certainly don’t care if the answer to “What were you doing today?” is “American Pie.” But when there aren’t contrived restrictions, people actually write. Granted, one has the choice to write anything, yet most of my friends have provided relatively insightful comments about their lives. Even if it’s just complaining about something that happened in school that day, it’s far more than I would’ve heard otherwise.

It somewhat harkens back to the days when Xanga was really popular among my friends. Just before FB got big (my freshmen year of high school, I want to say), Xanga was the hot new thing to use, and it was basically a blog-networking site. While most posts would at first seem somewhat content/insightless, I found it fantastic to read about what had happened on a day-to-day basis, especially for those who I didn’t see regularly.

And maybe that’s something that FB has supplanted: writing. When one turns away from a full textbox input to just a line for status updates, an increased necessity for summary doesn’t come close to compensating for reduced space. So with 25 Things, people actually have a chance to say something real about their lives. And I’m all for that.

I guess the last point I have on this is the final reason why I think it’s been so prolific is because it’s of a decent length and content. Status updates are too little. Blog posts are too much. I mean, I myself am often a little wary to read a long note by someone, because I go to FB for a diversion, not a deduction. But when you’re guaranteed to have 25 quick facts, that’s not much of a commitment at all. So I’ve been cheating out of doing 25 Things myself by saying that I write enough with my blog. But maybe this long weekend will convince me to sink a few into writing that up.

2 replies on “The Media cares about your 25 Things?”

I’ve been resisting responding to the 25 Things chain letter, because I don’t really need another motivation to write. I’m relatively prolific on the web — if not in my blogs, then Friendfeed is more than enough to track everything that I’ve doing on the web.

However, it seems that the 25 Things approach is a way of getting people started who don’t naturally blog. Inside IBM, there’s been a project called Beehive which had been centered around lists of fives. There’s also cute thematic social cues (e.g. give honey, hive fives).

I would attribute a lot of the success of the Beehive project to the fact that it’s five items (i.e. five bullet points), and that participants receive an e-mail summary each week on activity through the social network. I can not only what my direct contacts are doing, but also contacts-of-contacts.

The interesting natural experiment on the 25 Things activity on Facebook is whether it’s sustainability. It may help different people find new ways to express themselves — although multiples of 5 are easier than 25 — or it could be a one-time thing. Blogging isn’t for everyone, and it’s different for everyone.

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