As a platform for user-generated content (where'd that catchphrase ever go?) one of the main attractions of social media, in my opinion, is that it serves as a forum for whimsy -- the errata and marginal enthusiasms that are uncovered when people become their own media sources, or create ad hoc organizations devoted to the absurd. But the human capacity for whimsy, being unlimited, also threatens to dilute social media's basic value to users by cluttering it with a bunch of weird crap. So where should the line be drawn?
The pants are clearly intended to get people's attention, and have succeeded, inspiring TV news reports in various languages and as of February 16 a Facebook page, which by Friday 2/26 had attracted about 490,000 fans. But the Norwegian Curling Team's pants fan page didn't conform to Facebook's standards, at least at first, in that it didn't "promote a business or other commercial, political, or charitable organization or endeavor," and the page's creator -- Tony D'Orazio, a curler from New York -- wasn't an "authorized representative" of the Norwegian Curling Team, or more specifically, their pants.
So Facebook took the page down, provoking an avalanche of angry comments. Clearly the pants page wasn't just an irrelevant inside joke -- it was an expression of a broad-based cultural movement, doubtless short-lived but with remarkable reach during its brief period of fame. Facebook quickly restored the page, and it seems to have taken steps to satisfy the commercial endeavor requirement by including a link to a Web site which sells the pants (Loud Mouth Golf).
But the whole thing encapsulates, in miniature, the dilemma of whimsical content for social media. The primary function of social networks is to allow real human beings to create profiles representing themselves to more-or-less-genuinely; this basic imperative is reflected in rules which prohibit people from, say, stealing someone else's photos or using copyrighted brand imagery to "portray" themselves. But human interests aren't limited to this kind of direct, straightforward self-expression -- sometimes, we want to express our admiration or veneration of things like parti-colored pants, and as social media is more broadly about self expression, this seems entirely appropriate. But does whimsy threaten to drown out the real human element in social networks, making them less interesting in the long run?