What are the origins of Facebook's "25 Random Things About Me" phenomenon?

Inside the Internet.
Feb. 6 2009 11:55 AM

The 10 Things We Want To Know About "25 Random Things About Me"

A Slate reader survey: What are the origins of the Facebook phenomenon?

25 Random Things About Me.

In the past few weeks, a chain letter called "25 Random Things About Me" has wormed its way through Facebook at an alarming speed. The exhibitionistic format has remained surprisingly intact: In addition to rattling off 25 facts about themselves, "Random Things" authors are supposed to tag 25 of their Facebook friends, prompting them to write their own note and tag 25 more people, and so forth and so on.

Whatever your take is on the content of these notes, they do present a fascinating case study in how trends spread online. As USA Today noted Thursday, it's difficult for Facebook to measure the trend precisely because the letters are written using the generic Notes application, which can be used for any type of message. But a representative for the site did tell the newspaper that use of the Notes app has more than doubled in the past week.

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In an attempt to get a handle on how the "25 Random Things About Me" phenomenon began and spread, Slate is running a simple survey for Facebook users. If you have written such a letter or noticed that any of your Facebook friends have, please take a second to answer the following questions, using the news feeds on your profile to determine when you were first swept up in this trend.

First, click on Notes in the Applications sidebar to the right of Facebook's front page. (You might need to click on "more" under Applications to reveal the Notes icon or to add the Notes application.) This will give you a list of every note your friends have written. We're interested in the earliest instance of a "25 Things" list.

Once you're done with that, click on the Profile tab at the top of the screen. That will display a list of items that just pertain to you. Here, you can track instances of other people tagging you in their notes.

We're also interested in gleaning information on how the "25 Things" chain began. If you're the man or woman behind the idea or just have a theory you want to share, we'd love to hear from you. Please write down everything you know in the box below or send us an e-mail directly. All information you submit via this Web form is anonymous and will be used only in aggregate. If you choose to send us an e-mail, it may be quoted by name unless you stipulate otherwise.

This contest is now closed.

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Chris Wilson is a Slate contributor.

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