Jul 15, 2016

Fun Facts

We live in an age where random facts are thrown around and labeled as fun. But what makes a fact fun? Where do we draw the line between fun facts, and facts that are just simply facts?

Think for moment of a fun fact that you can recall hearing recently. Maybe you’re thinking about how if you eat too many carrots, your skin will turn orange. Or maybe you’re a bit blown away by the fact that a duck’s quack does not echo. These are just two examples of the bits of information that we as a society deem as “fun facts.”

What is a fun fact? Society says that a fun fact is a bit of information that is simply fascinating or interesting to hear.

But today I am calling for that to change. Let’s stop saying that facts are fun when they are really pretty common. I believe that we should push for the definition of fun facts to change: let’s only consider a fact fun if it is fascinating and not widely known.

Let me be clear. In order for a fact to be fun, it must meet the following (pretty simple) criteria*:

1. It must be fascinating and interesting.
2. It must not be widely known.

I’m not saying that the consumption of carrots causing your skin to turn orange is boring, don’t get me wrong. To be honest, I think that this is actually a fascinating piece of information that I have many questions about. So it meets requirement #1 of the fun fact criteria. But it falls short of requirement #2, nearly everyone is aware of the fact that eating too many carrots will turn your skin orange (this knowledge of this fact is so widespread, it makes it a boring fact, if anything).

Let’s consider another so-called fun fact: the average car weighs 1.3 tons. Is this a widely known piece of information? Probably not. I don’t think that most people would be able to tell you that a car weighs 1.3 tons, it’s a pretty specific number. So this fact meets requirement #2. But is the fact that a car weighs 1.3 tons fascinating or interesting? Absolutely not. In fact, I could not think of a more mundane piece of information. This is certainly not a fun fact.

Now you’re probably thinking, what is a fun fact? There are plenty out there. People are just lazy. A quality fun fact requires effort to find. And in a world of social media where content is everything, people want to find the best content as soon as possible, and this is where the laziness come out. And with this laziness comes lame facts - facts that are fun in name only. Good fun facts require effort to find. Until we really get to work finding quality content for our blogs, timelines, and walls, we will be stuck with the same old facts.

Let’s remember the difference between facts and fun facts.

* I should note that there is some ongoing discussion about adding one more requirement for fun facts. Elizabeth Farris, my go-to expert on fun facts, is in favor of a requirement stating that fun facts must not be dark. In her opinion, fun facts cannot be about subjects that many would consider dark, such as war, famine, genocide, etc. Fun facts should be light and happy, fun, really. This is an interesting idea that should be considered when determining whether or not a fact is fun.

This post originally appeared on one of my older blogs, I thought it was more suitable for this one. This is the criteria I use when selecting fun facts for the weekly newsletter. And yes, that third requirement has become official. 

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