There are Internet “plagues” that put Egypt’s seven afflictions to shame. Just a couple years ago, Facebook’s “Twenty-Five Random Facts About Me” became the cloud of locusts swooping into our cyberlives with equal parts intimate revelation and weird self-flagellation. The point was simple: list twenty-five unrelated facts about yourself, post them, then ask your friends to do the same. And guess what—I’m seeing a resurgence of the fad. During the debate last night, three of my Facebook friends posted their laundry list of nebulous nonsense. I realize that’s a small number…but can an epidemic copycat reaction be far behind?
Since its inception, participants in this phenomenon have taken various approaches to their guileless self-disclosure. Some have tried to be edgy (“I carried a switchblade in my lunch box for three years”), some have attempted to be funny (“I am so smart that Obama never calls me for advice”) and some have taken the exercise into oddly spiritual realms I will not illustrate with a quote for fear of being zapped by a stray lightning bolt—which, you’ve got to admit, would make a pretty great “random fact about me”!
I’ve long held the belief that all human beings have three basic needs: to be known, to be loved and to be touched. Oh, there are other facets of our neediness that I could include in a more comprehensive list (like feeling safe or, you know, eating hamburgers), but I truly believe that soul satiety stems essentially from these three. You might think that the first two are redundant, but I can assure you that being known does not necessarily equal being loved. In fact, I’m of the school of thought that a majority of us fear that once we’re truly known, sipping a Pumpkin Spice Latte with a friendly soul or just finding someone to sit beside us at a bus stop might become a tricky proposition.
The “Twenty-Five Things” phenomenon further supports my theory about the first two of our basic needs. My problem is that I’m a bit of a smart aleck (I’ve been called worse!) and my response to fads like this tends to move beyond tongue-in-cheek territory and straight into the quagmire of “Uhm, should you have said that out loud?” Regardless of what we choose to divulge in our lists, I’m fairly certain that there is a sense of satisfaction that comes from revealing unknown facts to a throng of likeminded cyber-stalkers. Because, you see, we all crave being known—truly known—and there are few venues in the “real” world (in our professional, practical and even, sadly, our spiritual world) where such revelation is encouraged and valued.
I wonder what can be done, in our circles of friends and acquaintances—maybe especially in our families and churches—that might allow for our basic needs to be met. What can be done to foster safety and vulnerability, without a perhaps unhealthy dependence on cyber-anonymity. I wonder what trivial questions could be rephrased to encourage a more personal response. Think of how different your answer would be if, instead of asking, “What’s your favorite food?” a person rephrased the question into “What memories do you associate with your favorite food?” And then I wonder how different our willingness to risk honesty would be if the response to strange-but-honest statements weren’t “That’s weird,” but “That’s fascinating.”
Don’t get me wrong. I know that the three basic needs I consider foundational (to be known, loved and touched) aren’t givens. I spent a good portion of my life neither known nor particularly loved—and without anybody beating down my door to ask me leading questions that might have allowed me to take the daunting risk of self-disclosure! There’s little we can do to force others to meet our needs. Survival and sanity dictate that we learn to be okay with seasons of “unknownness.” But there is much—much—we can do to begin to meet the needs of others. It may take some quality time carved out of too-full schedules. It may take asking questions that make us a little uncomfortable. It may take curbing the desire to be funny when what the vulnerable person really needs is a gesture of understanding and inclusion.
Take it from this formerly pathologically shy person who, for most of her life, found self-revelation as pleasant as, say, being impaled by serrated antlers then devoured by hyenas singing One Direction songs: to be known is an immeasurable gift, to be loved is inexpressibly precious and to be touched (even if it’s merely a hand on the shoulder or a pat on the back) is as restorative as a dozen burgers washed down with a cheesecake. It’s kinda nice, in other words, and it is, in my humble opinion, essential to wholeness.
And now, to prove that peer pressure knows no bounds, my list of 25 random facts. Actually, there are only 15 here, but you can fill in the blanks if you know me!
- I was so quiet (ie. scared) when I was little that my hairdresser called me “the little mouse” (la petite souris)
- If you’ve got pneumonia, I’ll hug you and hang out. Same with a sinus infection and probably the bubonic plague. But if you have anything that might involve throwing up, I’m afraid you’re going to have to hug yourself and take up knitting. I’m outta here.
- Owning a cat makes me feel stable. I haven’t had one in 8 years. Explains a lot, doesn’t it?
- I wrote my first poem when I was 6. It was about a baby seal. He was bludgeoned to death. I was a tad morbid at the time…
- I have a “brown thumb.” If you’re green, photosynthetic, and want to die, come sit by me for a minute.
- I was so homely when I was little that I always had to play the Indian (as in Apache) or the farmer (as in Joe) in our make-believe games.
- Before I started college, I thought Wheaton was in the “state” of Chicago.
- I did serious damage to my ankle by jumping off a wall when I was about 10 and vacationing in Switzerland. My parents, on the recommendation of a friend, took me to a cow doctor who put “whatever needed to be put back into place” back into place, thus sparing me from the surgery real doctors had prescribed. It worked, but I was irrevocably emotionally damaged by having to drop my trousers in front of an old man in a barn!
- I’m a major, major, MAJOR introvert. Yup.
- I wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up. Then God gave me American hips.
- Doctors discovered 9 giant ulcers in my duodenum in 2004. They’re not fun. Sugar seems to aggravate them. I still eat cheesecake. ’nuff said!
- I love cars. L-o-v-e them!
- What I don’t love is beaches. They’re too sandy, too sunny, and too bathing-suity.
- I’m a big proponent of spending my emotional energy on things I can actually improve and not wasting it on what cannot be changed.
- I’ve never had a “real” boyfriend…but I’ve been kinda-engaged. (See “My Chicken Farmer” post.)
Please feel free to list a few of your own fascinating “shades of TMI” in the comment section below! You know the world wants to know…