‘25 things’ is the last thing we need
I don’t want to know 25 things about you. In fact, I don’t want to know two things about you. But somehow you’ve found me on Facebook and sent me your “25 Random Things About Me,” which I deleted. Like any normal person, I am far too busy learning random things about celebrities.
Between Jan. 26 and Feb. 2, Facebook users sent out 5 million of these “25 Things” lists, far more than any other application in social networking history. Which is impressive until you realize the competition consists of a Ponzi scheme involving fake vampire bites instead of money or a cause called “Don’t Let Newspapers Die.”
If your list was actually interesting -- you cheat on your husband, prefer your second child to your first, have a debilitating sexual crush on me despite devoting yourself to Christ -- I’d read it. Instead, you’re just going to tell me that there are foods you like more than other foods, and that your kids bring you joy you could have never imagined. These are answers to questions so boring, James Lipton doesn’t ask them.
The idea of sending me information about yourself on a social networking site -- where your entire page is full of information about yourself -- makes no sense. It’s like having a porn website with extra porn on it. I think I just came up with a really good idea.
Worse yet, you’re clearly using me. After you type your 25 things, the application requires that you send it to 25 friends. Then I get an e-mail notifying me of your masterpiece, which says: “If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.” No. It’s because you want me to know more about you. The self-love is so transparent it makes me uncomfortable.
Not long ago, very few people got their writing published, and those people were often paid for it. Now everybody can type about themselves online, and “25 Things” has finally established writing’s Internet Age value: You actually have to pay to get read. And the payment is wading through other people’s boring writing about themselves. This isn’t how writing works. This is how talking works.
I’m bombarded bi-hourly by status updates and tweets and clever texts that you’re “eating peanut butter like it’s 2008.” We need to reestablish the barrier for writing in the first person, limiting it to jailed civil rights leaders, little girls hiding from Nazis and me.
The first step is to prevent everyone from having a keyboard in front of them wherever they go. People used to read when they arrived first at the restaurant or waited for a doctor; now they type. And their keyboards also act like tiny printing presses run by drunk union guys who are about to retire and don’t care.
We have erased the distinction between a note left on the counter and a publishable work. We are blasting our notes to everyone we know and everyone they know, until we’re just demographic slivers who know nothing except when we’re each going to bed. We’ve used the world’s most impressive technology to provide an entertainment last enjoyed by the Waltons.
How can I prove how pointless this type of faux writing is? I have posted my own “25 Random Things About Me” on latimes.com. I predict no one will read it, despite the fact that I had much more fun writing it than this column, because several sentences in this column weren’t about me.
If I find out from the tech department that the list gets more hits than this column, I’m going to law school. Or write a book called “50,000 Random Things About Me.”
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
5 out of 25
1. I used to have a glass-animal collection. Technically, I still do.
2. Until fifth grade, I thought rock music was evil. I was not religious or Christian. Just a massive nerd.
3. I’ve never read a comic book.
4. My lower back hair could be an obscure, highly unlikable Muppet.
5. I am a pretty good shoplifter.
For Joel Stein’s complete “25 Random Things About Me,” go to latimes.com/opinion.