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25 Random Tips for the Busy Facebook User


Like the social networking site itself, the latest Facebook fad appeals because it “lets you present yourself to the world in the way you want people to perceive you,’’ said BJ Fogg, who directs the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University and is writing a book about the psychology of Facebook.

The “25’’ instructions, distributed in a kind of chain-mail message, bid recipients to “write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits or goals about you’’ that can be viewed by any of your Facebook friends. Then you must “tag’’ 25 others with the same fiat.

Some Facebook critics condemn the activity – or even commenting on it — as an exercise in narcissism. Others say the Facebook-fueled disclosures draw far-flung friends closer than they ever would be otherwise and, sometimes, make for a good laugh.

It does seem to beat sending each other pretend cocktails (another preoccupation of Facebook’s 150 million users). But most everyone agrees it is taking up an inordinate amount of time. “People,’’ said Dr. Fogg, “are thinking very carefully about their lists.’’

The more popular your Facebook persona, the logic goes, the more you will be able to get your Facebook friends to read your blog or buy your book or support your cause. But crafting one is a delicate process, especially condensed in list-form.

How to exalt your achievements while appearing humble? How to convey your essential originality while coming off as reassuringly familiar? How to illuminate without oversharing?

A Times analysis of 2.5 million lists (okay, maybe more like six or seven) yielded the following formula for the perfect list, which we offer in the interest of – well, which we offer, anyway, in case someone wants to read it.

1. Say that you hate things like this, and are doing it only to get the (oh, so many) friends clamoring for your list off your back.

2. Describe “embarrassing” high school incident that makes you look cool.

3. Confess to crush on a) third-grade teacher b) obscure indie actor or actress c) your significant other, especially if he or she is on Facebook.

4. Identify real, but minor, flaw.

5. Identify major flaw by suggesting how it may also be major virtue.

6. Cite mean nickname you were given as a child.

7. Follow with offhand mention of receipt of high professional honor or athletic or artistic achievement.

8. Describe meeting a celebrity and how it a) disillusioned or b) thrilled you or c) if it’s a really good celebrity just the name will do.

9. Mention small adversity, like long commute or annoying neighbor, and the unexpected, preferably funny, way you overcome it.

10. Cite an actual random thing that comes to mind while writing this list.

11. “Admit” that you always identified with weird ancillary character on popular TV show in 7th grade, as if you didn’t know that everyone in retrospect agrees that was the best character.

12. Expose something genuine and poignant about yourself, such as untimely death of close relative or rare genetic condition.

13. Express heartfelt thanks to friends or family for helping you through #12, or just for being there, or whatever.

14. Conclude sentimental portion of list by citing the scene in movie X that always makes you cry. Could also be a lyric, or a memory, so long as it involves crying.

15. Something about drugs.

16. Tell a story of how you stood up to authority. Dwelling on descriptive details can help it not seem like you are making yourself out to be a hero even though you are.

17. Recount a dramatic moment, like having your heart broken or getting arrested, but withhold details, forcing readers to ask for them in your “comments’’ section. In case you didn’t know, comments equate to status on Facebook even more than number of friends.

18. Make one up.

19. Say “one of these is completely made up.”

20. If you have kids, a) cite weird names you wanted for them and how your more rational, if less creative, spouse rescued them from a lifetime of torture,

21. and/or b) relate story that appears to expose your inept parenting while in fact highlighting their precocious brilliance. If you don’t have kids, relate a cute anecdote from your early life to show everyone that you’re still a kid at heart.

22. If you have a pet, you have one item only through which to convey its superlative nature. If you don’t have a pet, talk about how much you yearn for an obscure breed of cat/dog/reptile or, alternatively, how much you hate animals and the people who love them.

23. Something about parents.

24. Name skill that you are proud of by recounting unexpected way you acquired it.

25. Close with the unusual: a) recount a genuinely traumatic event you witnessed or b) name an exotic location that is your favorite place on earth or c) cite a dubious world record that you performed.

26. This is important: Do not add “bonus” items.

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