Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Not it

Pardon us while we talk Facebook for a minute. We don't intend to leave anyone out; we are just working through some things within our borders. This has to do with a rash of Tagging games where a Friend posts a certain item -- typically a list, typically a list of things about themselves -- and "tags" a group of other friends to do the same.
This is an online chain letter/slambook/cootie catcher that is delightfully contagious and a riot when you are the tagger. No so much when you are the tagee. Or so we have come to decide... as a community.

"25 Random Things" went from Big Cool Thing to Email Forwarded from Your Aunt Millie in a matter of weeks. Because see, Facebook is an enormous Venn diagram and lacks an important feature (Product Managers, take note): There is no "Not It" feature which says "I already played this game."

So we got tired of it right away. Robert Lanham summarizes much of the backlash. Even within my own circle, I proposed that we shorten our Lists to 10, then promised to only tag the people who tagged me -- not at all in the spirit of keeping the game going. Facebook will allow you to tag up to 10, and that helps spread the wealth. A mathematician could tell you the formula for how quickly you will be tagged by 10 people in your circle who do not know each other. I will just tell you it is "20 FB check-ins later."

What I am so busy with that I can't make a list?

Of course we get on Facebook because we are bored, so why all the huffing and puffing when we are finally offered something to do? Remember being 8, dragging your feet around the living room: "Mo-o-o-m... I'm bor-r-r-r-red..." "Why don't you write to grandma? Read Treasure Island? Polish the silver?" "Ugh. never mind." You haven't come so far.

We want to ready OTHER people's lists. We don't want to have to BE the other people and write lists for OUR Friends. I'll stop capitalizing. I was still being 8.

Maybe if we didn't check Facebook 50 times a day, we wouldn't feel so much to-do pressure. Instead, we could log on to 5 or 10 really interesting lists about people we like. (Shame on you if you put people you don't like in your Friend circle. You get what you deserve.)
This idea came the blog-o-sphere anyway, where it was originally "100 random things about me," but in true FB fashion, it had to be shorter and faster than blogging. (see my tribute, 50 things about Cheez-its)

I have been getting a big kick out of reconnecting with my dorm mates from Freshman year (dictionary note: we were "girls," we did say "freshMEN" and we lived in "dorms." and this was a luxury car. But let's stay focused, please). Most of the friends I had made that first year did not stay -- many of them left after that first year. Not only did I not know what had happened to them for the past 25 years, I hadn't learned much about what had happened to them the first 18. So these women I once knew very well... for a very short time... a long time ago... are presented new to me. Their 25 things really are eye-opening, like little pages torn from their daily planners.

We're the mighty wave, and we shall not be moved...
We have people in our lives that we think we have nothing in common with except our backgrounds. Then you meet them again or ("meet" them) and discover how powerful that commonality can be. And it isn't just that 70 other people thought the Latin Club was as cool as you did.

You make friends after a certain age, and you take the package as it is. You don't ask a lot of questions (well, I don't) and just let things unfold like a Faulkner novel. Caddie smells like trees. nobody knows why. It's just something you know about her. Then you get a little moment of exposition like a 25 things list, and questions you weren't asking get answered.

The friends, family, mates who make up your board of directors will also surprise you in their lists. Suddenly at #17, or #29 there is a who-knew moment that you can't believe you never knew and then are not at all surprised by.
Facebook Nation will move on from 25 Random Things. It is already being parodied, and something new will come along. Plant something and see where it goes. I'll play along.

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