Tag. You’re it.
It’s hard not to be familiar with the popular “25 Random Things” viral message on Facebook. Odds are if you’re a member of the social networking site, which features more than 150 million profiles, you’ve either created or been tagged in one of these notes.
The rules are simple: divulge 25 things about yourself and tag 25 people in the note, encouraging them to do the same.
Though Facebook officials cannot track the number of users to post a version of this note, they do acknowledge that the first week of February saw the number of daily notes double, and daily tags of Facebook members quintupled.
Why this note’s spreading fascinates many is because Facebook is a public online profile. If a user has minimal privacy settings, any user – and some non-users – can read the notes, which could tell private information.
Three members of Temple’s sociology department – professors Shanyang Zhao, Sherri Grasmuck and Jason Martin – wrote an article in September 2008 called “Identity construction on Facebook: Digital empowerment in anchored relationships.”
The article looks at how users can create a digital identity for themselves on social networking sites, particularly on Facebook, that may or, in some cases, may not be akin to their “real” identity.
“‘Virtual selves’ commonly refers to online selves and ‘real selves’ to offline selves, but … Facebook identities are clearly real in the sense that they have real consequences for the lives of the individuals who constructed them,” the article said.
Thus, users have the opportunity to shape their online personas.
Regardless of levels of sophistication, Facebook users in our sample all attempted to project a self that is socially desirable,” the article said.
In essence, this could also mean excluding particular information. But Facebook provides some comfort to users willing to disclose information simply because they have an electronic open forum.
“Although institutionally anchored, Facebook encounters are mediated, and the technological mediation can create a sense of freedom that encourages the limited expression of some type of ‘hidden selves’ that are commonly seen in anonymous online environments,” the article said.
Therefore, many users globally decided to disclose some random personal information for others’ enjoyment.
“It’s fun to put that stuff out there,” undeclared freshman Cortnie Carlheim said. “People message you back and say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that.’”
Carlheim said she doesn’t have many secrets, so posting information in a note like this isn’t harmful.
But more importantly, she said, “it’s fun to hear what other people have to say, too.”
Chris Stover can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.