hal tweets ·11:28 AM

Ghostbuster zines from the Canzine Hollywood Piracy Zine Challenge are now online! http://t.co/RoAMEQTU

Ignore Me. If You Can: Thoughts About "25 Random Things About Me" :comments

Posted by Hal
Tags: production, Video sharing, Voyeurism

If you’ve been on Facebook over the last month or so you’ve probably gotten a message from one of your friends that starts like this:

“Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.”

I’ve gotten 20 or so of these I think. And I’ve probably read about 20 or 30. Five million or so notes on people’s Facebook profiles were created in the first week of February, double the previous week and more than any other single week in Facebook history. According to Facebook HQ, it was the “Random Things” phenom that caused the explosion.

Almost as interesting as the thing itself is the media response. (Gawker noted that “the trend pieces about Facebook’s ‘25 random things’ lists are spreading even faster than the freaking lists themselves.”) Writes The New York Times: “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.” “This is just another online outbreak of mass self-disclosure and self-importance,” complains the Washington Post. “Like personality e-mail forwards of yore (boxers or briefs? Pacino or De Niro?). Everyone is typing out Random Things this week, and asking—nay, tagging—us to do the same.” The Boston Globe puts it this way: “To a growing chorus of critics, 25 Random Things is nothing more than industrial-strength narcissism, an intrusive, time-wasting, Internet chain letter.”

But an interesting thing happens in these articles. They start out all dismissive and snarky but the end up pretty mushy. The Salon piece on the phenomenon is a good example. Robert Lanham starts out trashing it, of course, but ends up with: “Once you stop being annoyed you realize that, at its best, it’s one of the more compelling—and, yes, even oddly inspiring—wastes of time to hit the Web in years.”

He’s right and wrong. He’s right because it is an inspiring trend - the sort of thing that redeems Peep culture and reminds us of what a world might be like in which could know each other not as statistics, demographics, competition and customers, but as human beings. He’s wrong because it’s not really all that much of a waste of time. Who is wasting their time? For the writer who does it, they’re cobbling together a kind of written portrait of their inner lives, an exercise that’s pretty much always revealing, cathartic and even fun. For the reader, you get the immediacy and intrinsically compelling elements of Peep without the seedy - should I be watching this feeling of Reality TV. And, of course, if you don’t want to read them, then how hard is it to just not click on the link? It’s easy to ignore it, except for the fact that, as all the commentators above suggest, and as all the millions who have preceded their lists with remarks like “I never do things like this…” there’s something so undeniably compelling about these lists that, ultimately, it becomes impossible to ignore. And something that’s impossible to ignore is rarely a waste of time.

It’s funny observing people who blather on for a living, very often about nothing, complain about a trend that basically involves millions doing the same thing - but often far more honestly, poetically, and meaningfully than your typical columnist would ever dare. 25 Random Things is, at the end of the day, a great example of the sort of grassroots, DIY creativity that Peep makes possible. It reminds me a lot of the kinds of material people used to put into their personal zines in the 80s and 90s: painfully earnest, ardently self aware, but also truthful, sweet and desperate. Why desperate? Because at the heart of Peep is the desperation to be known, not as “one of those annoying losers who couldn’t ignore this lame internet trend” but as actual people who commune and communicate with each other, their families, their world.

So in that spirit, feel free to send me your list. And next week I will post to the blog and Facebook the much anticipated “25 Random Things About Hal”. Ignore it. If you can.

 

Comments: -7-, Add yours…

I personally was personally tagged in 15 “25 Random Things.” I’ve also made one myself. Since February 1st, I have gotten at least 7 or so <span class=“caps”>OTHER</span> notes with the same sort of questionnaire or ‘tell all’ aspect. This note phenomenon has climaxed over the past 2 weeks or so. Even though I personally never really liked these type of things, I can’t stop reading others’ and doing thing myself.

Its hard to not keep with the trends.

-DR

By Devon on 2009 02 11

I love your open attitude about this thing, Hal.  I would have thought that you, of all people, would have had a more negative attitude regarding this list thang, similar to that of some of the journalists that you quote.  I may now get up the nerve to fill in my own 25 things.  Now, get back to work on your book,

Yours,

Your Publisher

By Stacey Lewis, City Lights Publishers on 2009 02 11

How random must the 25 random things be? Or can you use them to promote your mercenary agenda, like a retailer promoting his wares for example?

By Clay on 2009 02 11

Like the article.  How does one send one’s list to you?

By Lorin Wertheimer on 2009 02 11

This trend is far too trivial for my tastes. Call me old fashioned, but I enjoy the long process of actually getting to know someone over an extended period of time. Sharing increasingly intimate morsels about one another, not these random bits of nothingness and meaninglessness without personal context. It’s still only smatterings of surface that go no deeper than that. These are the same same people, by and large, who collect hundreds and thousands of Facebook friends. How can you possibly get to know anyone beyond trivially with that vast number, Hal? Huh?

By Mark McCawley on 2009 02 11

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By qepgikne on 2009 04 16

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The Bloggist

Hey, I’m Hal Niedzviecki. I’m a writer/thinker who lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with my wife and daughter. Up till now I’ve always considered myself a private person. But at the same time I’m fascinated by people who effortlessly open themselves up to the whole world. So I’ve… more...

 

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