My favorite color is blue. I love pizza (a totally unpopular opinion, I know). I’m sure you’re already dying to know more about me, right?
As a college freshman taking classes entirely virtually, connecting with other students has been rather difficult. Unless of course, you enjoy staring into a sea of black screens and reveling in awkward silences—in which case, online school is definitely for you! I, however, can’t say that I’m satisfied with rare glimpses of my classmates’ stained pajamas and bed head. Forgive me for wanting more. Can you guess what my professors offer as a solution? Drumroll, please… icebreakers—the bane of (almost) every student’s existence.
Nowadays, we rely on icebreakers to facilitate conversation, with an especially strong emphasis on one specific type: the infamous “fun fact.” I’m sure I’ll get some backlash from diehard “fun fact” supporters who argue that they’re just geared to break down the initial awkward barrier and help transition into deeper discussions. But, how often do we actually share meaningful information? People tend to roll with the very first thing that they can think of; nine times out of ten, I hear about people’s favorite colors or foods (hence my riveting facts above). Snoozefest or what?
Personally, I always rely on the same go-to fun fact: I have a puppy named Simba. Quick shout-out to myself for choosing the most impersonal, indistinct fact that I could think of. I’m completely aware that this tells my classmates absolutely nothing about me. Yet, I’ll continue to share this utterly bland fact and be smug while doing it. Why smug, you might ask? Well, I refuse to offer a more worthwhile fun fact—consider this to be my personal crusade against this horrible activity. Yes, my hatred for fun facts is really this deep—but before you think I’m crazy, hear me out.
If you are anything like me, the words “fun fact” set off an internal alarm. We all strive to be that person who automatically earns the respect and praise of our peers. But the reality is that most of us haven’t been skydiving, invented a new technology, gotten bit by a shark, or know how to tap dance. The majority of us lead pretty ordinary lives, so we are faced with the dilemma of thinking of something fascinating, captivating, and unique. Did someone say pressure? Let’s not forget the important caveats that accompany those requirements. The fun fact can’t be too quirky to avoid coming across as weird, but a very generic one seems too basic and boring. The struggle to find a perfect middle ground is way too stressful. My solution to cheat the system is to simply share something that avoids any vulnerability and judgment at all—the brilliant thinking of an introvert petrified by rejection!
Is this clever or am I shooting myself in the foot? The online setting limits casual conversation, so there’s an internal frenzy to impress others in just a few interactions. As if making friends during freshman year isn’t hard enough already! When we’re asked to share something about ourselves with new people, we have to choose the one thing that encompasses our whole essence and projects us in a positive light. That just feels wrong. Who let fun facts have so much power?
Before you say that people forget most fun facts, let me tell a quick story. At a summer program, my twenty peers and I were asked to share something about ourselves. We had to repeat everything said previously before adding our own contribution; by the end, I could recite those fun facts in my sleep (and still can). That information—a favorite sport or instrument they played–was literally the only thing that I knew about any of them; is it a then surprise that I relied on them to identify each person? In all honesty, if their facts were a bit unusual for my liking, I even judged some of them, without truly giving them the benefit of the doubt. Clearly, our fun facts have longer-lasting implications than we believe–they heavily influence how others will perceive us.
So, grab your masks, signs, and most durable sneakers. It’s time for a march to abolish the fun fact. NO MORE FUN FACTS! I can confidently say that fun facts are the worst way to get to know someone, with their flaws greatly outweighing any small benefits they might have. More importantly, in this virtual setting, we are all already experiencing elevated social anxiety. How senseless are we to promote an activity that heightens this stress while also encouraging us to make misguided judgments? We are long overdue for a new way of communication, and the search for one starts now.