Our Ten Favorite Facebook Groups

Until yesterday, 'I Read Mental Floss' was our favorite Facebook Group. Then Evan Schiller showed us these.

1. Group Name:

"I feel bad when I see kids on a leash"
Description: In the old days, leashes were the domain of domesticated animals and the occasional dominatrix. Not anymore. Today's parents simply strap a harness across their kid's chest, grab the reins, and hope to keep their offspring on course. A suburban Iditarod. This group takes issue with the burgeoning child/leash phenomenon. They feel bad for the kids. You know who needs the sympathy? The leash. The only thing keeping some hyperactive little snot off the third-rail is a measly piece of nylon. That's a great deal of pressure to put on an inanimate object. The group purports, "if I was put on a leash I would be scarred for life." That's a bit dramatic, and actually, scientifically flawed. Scarred for life is what happens when an unwieldy child runs into the middle of the road when he hears the ice cream truck coming. Truth be told, when one considers the next logical step in terms of child rearing "“ the taser "“ a leash seems like, well"¦ child's play.
Members: 4,142
Best Wall Post: "My mom used to attach this green slinky-like thing to both of our wrists when I was really little. I will never forgive her."

2. Group Name:

"I cheated at 'Book It!' to get free pizza"
book-it.jpgDescription: This group is for those who participated in Pizza Hut's "Book It!" reading program in elementary school and cheated the system to get free pizza. According to Pizza Hut's website, "Book It! motivates children to read by rewarding their reading accomplishments with praise, recognition and pizza"¦ Goals are based on reading ability. Number of books, number of pages, or number of minutes "“ they all work." While the program purports remarkable success, including a whopping 22 million participants, this Facebook group, and others like it, reveal a much more sinister reality. Reading for the sake of reading has been usurped by pretending to read to get free pizza. And they say Americans are fat and stupid. Go figure.
Members: 113
Best Wall Post: "I remember one time I needed to read one more book so on the sheet I made up some book and when it came to the author I looked around the room and saw some civil war books and came up with the name 'Abraham Wall Lee.' It was such BS now that I look back on it, but that pizza was worth it."

3. Group Name:

"The only reason I went to elementary school was to play Oregon Trail"

oregon_trail2.jpgDescription: In 1985, when Oregon Trail was released on floppy disk, the world changed forever. The days of learning about Manifest Destiny and real Oregon Trail were finally behind us. More important matters, like shooting buffalo and learning to ford virtual rivers, were quickly taking precedence. Rather than bother children with actual historical events, Oregon Trail brought some life's most valuable lessons to light. For instance, according to the group, "typhoid and cholera really aren't that big of a deal" and, "if you lose two family members, 3 oxen, and 400 bullets while fording the river, it is better than paying some Indian $5 to help." And we ask, "Is our children learning?" The answer is decidedly "yes."
Members: 9,864
Best Wall Post: "JIMMY'S GOT TYPHOID!"

4. Group Name:

'I love it when bus drivers wave to each other'

Description: The most interesting part of this group is found its description, which reads like a lazily constructed haiku with little regard for syllabilic constraints:

every time
the driver give each other a little wave
and its amazing

busdriver.jpgThe connection between bus drivers is magical. Like a pitcher's ability to communicate with his catcher through a furtive nod and the faintest twitch of a finger, bus drivers too have a secret, unspoken code. If you've ever witnessed a bus driver selflessly make room for his comrade, waiting patiently as another bus merges into traffic, it becomes clear that bus drivers have attained nirvana. They are completely at peace, utterly gracious, brazenly benevolent. If bus drivers ruled the world there would be no war.
Members: 1,057
Best Wall Post: "...waving at bus drivers when not a bus driver is forbidden in the UK. you would die....seriously."

5. Group Name:

"If this group reaches 15k people, Kevin and I will have a pinecone eat-off!"

pinecones.jpgDescription: Once upon a time Facebook was only open to a select group of well-mannered college students. It was a tame, sterile place. "Poking" was considered risqué. But times have changed. And it has become increasingly apparent that Facebook is devolving into barbarism. It's an open-source free-for-all, sullied by graffiti walls, super pokes, and groups like this one. The group, and the high-speed pinecone-eating contest it sponsors, is both a testament to this shift, and proof that society has officially lost its way. The rules of the eat-off state: "5 cones each, 30 minutes on the clock. First one to finish his lineup of cones is the victor (unless time runs out, then furthest along at time wins)." Sickening. Just sickening. Now if you'll excuse me, Fear Factor is on.
Members: 1,450
Best Wall Post: "I don't know who Kevin is, but anyone willing to eat pinecones deserves me to back them up!"

6. Group Name:

"Chairman Miaow & Herman Gerbils"
catgun.jpgDescription: There's something to be said for irreverent puns. I'm not sure what, but decidedly, there is. If you haven't yet found a connection between cuddly domesticated animals and sadistic, imperialist dictators, you just aren't looking hard enough. This group is all about forging that all-important link. According to the group's mantra, "you get extra points for the more amusing the animal and the more controversial the bastion of evil. And vice-versa." Well, thank goodness. At first I thought there was no point to the whole charade.
Members: 18
Best Wall Post: "A little tenuous, but a fish/roman emperor searching for his father: Finding Nero?"

7. Group Name:

"Every Slinky I owned got Jacked Up at Some Point"
slinky.jpgDescription: Unfortunately, astute observations only go so far. The group's premise is spot on, but they offer little by way of solutions. Make no mistake, the slinky is the tip of the iceberg. Maybe I'm paranoid, but in my humble opinion, a host of modern-day products are alive. If not, explain how my headphone wires spontaneously become a useless, bewildering muddle whenever I leave them unattended. The same thing happens to wires behind the TV, or a computer. They're like unruly jungle vines. How can it be that wires, untouched for months, do this?
Members: 197
Best Wall Post: "Slinky + Escalator = Endless fun"

8. Group Name:

"Air Bud gave me false expectations about my dog's basketball skills"
airBud.jpgDescription: Thanks to film and television, I've grown to despise my dog's ineptitude. He's mind-numbingly naïve. For instance, while my pooch is busy chasing his tail, as if it posed some real and present danger to his life, Lassie is off saving lives and making Timmy like the happiest kid on the face of the earth. But when Air Bud came along, my shame sunk to new lows. It took me the better part of my summer vacation in third grade to teach my dog to roll over. But Air Bud can dunk with his nose? That's bulls*#t. Disney has been doing this for years. In fact, when you take a step back, real life is pretty terrible compared to a Disney movie. Coupled with the whole "Be Like Mike" charade, which convinced thousands of gullible children that Gatorade was the key to athletic greatness, Air Bud more or less ruined my relationship with my dog and destroyed my aspirations of making it to the NBA.
Members: 134
Best Wall Post: "I used to try and try when I was little to get my dog to play some b-ball. It never worked. Thanks so much, you smug little golden retriever."

9. Group Name:

rudy.jpg"1,000,000 Strong For Rudy Giuliani"

Description: They've got a ways to go.
Members: 4
Best Wall Post: N/A. Apparently, Rudy's supporters are too busy with the recruitment effort to post comments on the wall. [Rudy has plenty of other Facebook groups. But this was obviously our favorite.]

10. Group Name:

"Bring Back Captain Planet to Stop Global Warming"
planet.jpgDescription: Captain Planet can pretty much do anything. He can fly, he has super strength and the ability to blow hurricane force winds, he's capable of telekinesis, and he can even change shape and transmute matter. The only thing he can't do is tolerate ungodly carbon emissions. And who can blame him? The earth is falling apart. The children of the world need a hero, not a monotone former Vice President. Today's children worship purple dinosaurs, and some sponge that lives in pineapple under the sea. What kind of perverted message does this send to young people? No one can live in a pineapple under the sea. And if they did, they'll soon be extinct because Captain Planet is off the air.
Members: 7,555
Best Wall Post: "I didn't realize 'Heart' was an element."

If you feel compelled to join one of these groups, let us know which one. If you'd like to come clean about cheating at Book It! to get free pizza, we'll support you. And stay tuned for a mental_floss Facebook application. For now, join our growing support group "I Read Mental Floss."

Evan Schiller is an occasional contributor to mentalfloss.com. He recently started a blog called Conventional Stupidity.

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These Sparrows Have Been Singing the Same Songs for 1500 Years
iStock
iStock

Swamp sparrows are creatures of habit—so much so that they’ve been chirping out the same few tunes for more than 1500 years, Science magazine reports.

These findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, resulted from an analysis of the songs of 615 adult male swamp sparrows found in six different areas of the northeastern U.S. Researchers learned that young swamp sparrows pick up these songs from the adults around them and are able to mimic the notes with astounding accuracy.

Here’s what one of their songs sounds like:

“We were able to show that swamp sparrows very rarely make mistakes when they learn their songs, and they don't just learn songs at random; they pick up commoner songs rather than rarer songs,” Robert Lachlan, a biologist at London’s Queen Mary University and the study’s lead author, tells National Geographic.

Put differently, the birds don’t mimic every song their elders crank out. Instead, they memorize the ones they hear most often, and scientists say this form of “conformist bias” was previously thought to be a uniquely human behavior.

Using acoustic analysis software, researchers broke down each individual note of the sparrows’ songs—160 different syllables in total—and discovered that only 2 percent of sparrows deviated from the norm. They then used a statistical method to determine how the songs would have evolved over time. With recordings from 2009 and the 1970s, they were able to estimate that the oldest swamp sparrow songs date back 1537 years on average.

The swamp sparrow’s dedication to accuracy sets the species apart from other songbirds, according to researchers. “Among songbirds, it is clear that some species of birds learn precisely, such as swamp sparrows, while others rarely learn all parts of a demonstrator’s song precisely,” they write.

According to the Audubon Guide to North American Birds, swamp sparrows are similar to other sparrows, like the Lincoln’s sparrow, song sparrow, and chipping sparrow. They’re frequently found in marshes throughout the Northeast and Midwest, as well as much of Canada. They’re known for their piercing call notes and may respond to birders who make loud squeaking sounds in their habitat.

[h/t Science magazine]

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18 Smart Products To Help You Kick Off Summer
iStock
iStock

Whether you’re trying to spiff up your backyard barbeque or cultivate your green thumb, these summertime gadgets will help you celebrate the season from solstice to the dog days.

1. ROSÉ WINE GLASSES; $60

Rosé Wine Glass
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Wine not? When the temperature rises and beer isn’t your thing, reach for the rosé. Riedel’s machine-blown SST (see, smell, taste) wine glasses will give the sparkly stuff ample room to breathe, making every refreshing sip worthwhile.

Find It: Amazon

2. NERF N-STRIKE ELITE SURGEFIRE; $25

Nerf SurgeFire
Hasbro

Why It’s Cool: The N-Strike Elite SurgeFire (say that five-times-fast) sports a pump-action rotating drum for maximum foam-based firepower and holds up to 15 Nerf darts in its arsenal.

Find It: Hasbro Toy Shop

3. BUSHEL & BERRY PLANTS; $34

plant
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: You don’t need to have a green thumb to create a brag-worthy garden this summer. Besides producing snackable mid-season berries, these open-growing bushes can be planted immediately for easy set-up to make you look like a botanical pro.

Find It: Amazon

4. INFLATABLE DONUT; $17

Doughnut float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When the only dunking you’re doing is taking a dip in the pool, a 48-inch inflatable donut is the perfect way to stay afloat.

Find It: Amazon

5. STAR SPANGLED SPATULA; $21

American flag spatula
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: O say can you see by your grill’s charcoal light / Meats so proudly we cooked ... with a star spangled spatula. Depending on the specific model, these all-American grilling tools (designed in New Jersey and made in Chicago) are made of a combination of walnut and stainless steel or nylon. As an added bonus: 5 percent of the proceeds go to the Penn Abramson Cancer Center.

Find It: Amazon

6. MLB HOT DOG BRANDERS; $8 AND UP

MLB San Diego Padres Hot Dog BBQ Brander
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Take your hot dogs, sausages, brats, and more out to the ballgame without ever leaving your grill. These branders from Pangea Brands are dishwasher-safe and made of ceramic-coated cast iron.

Find It: Amazon

7. UNA GRILL; $139

grill
MoMA Shop

Why It’s Cool: This portable charcoal-heated grill is as efficient as it is stylish. The compact size lets you cook at the park, after hitting up MoMA, or anywhere in between.

Find It: MoMa Shop

8. HAMBURGER GRILLING BASKET; $21


Why It’s Cool: Made of steel and finished with a non-stick coating, this grilling tool flips four burgers at once and maintains perfect burger proportions to guarantee nobody stays hungry for long.

Find It: Amazon

9. COPPER FIRE PIT; $121

metal fire pit
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: The grill isn’t the only place for a roaring fire this summer. This 100 percent solid copper fire pit makes for the perfect gathering spot at your next BBQ, or just to warm up after a cool summer evening.

Find It: Amazon

10. BENDY STRAW POOL NOODLE FLOAT; $10

Bendy Straw Inflatable Pool Float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Inflatable pool floats shouldn’t be boring, and this bendy straw float definitely does not suck. This unique spin on traditional pool noodles is sure to make for some cheesy jokes, but at least you’ll be comfortable floating in the pool or at the beach.

Find It: Amazon

11. GRIDDLER DELUXE; $111

Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for some serious panini power, this griddler offers up a versatile lineup of six cooking options in one. And with dual-zone functions you can sling burgers while searing filets and sautéeing vegetables all at the same time.

Find It: Amazon

12. VINTAGE SNOW CONE MAKER; $30

Vintage Snow Cone Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: With its old-timey design, dual cone shelf, and endless flavor options, this snow cone maker is guaranteed create a cool treat.

Find It: Amazon

13. DACHSHUND CORN ON THE COB HOLDERS; $7

Dog Corn Holders
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: While meat-lovers will inevitably scarf down a lot of hot dogs this summer, vegetarians who happen to love another kind of dog will be smitten with these stainless steel, Dachshund-shaped corn on the cob prongs. They’re a fun spin on a summer grilling favorite.

Find It: Amazon

14. ICE CREAM SANDWICH MAKER; $16

Ice Cream Sandwich Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Four sandwiches are better than one, especially when they're of the ice cream variety. Make four ice cream sandwiches at once with this homemade spin on a classic cold treat.

Find It: Amazon

15. UE WONDERBOOM; $68

Bluetooth speaker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Besides delicious food and great company, some memorable tunes are required for the quintessential barbeque. This portable bluetooth speaker offers up some booming sound in a small package, and with a battery power of 10 hours on a single charge you can keep the party going all night.

Find It: Amazon

16. ROLLORS GAME; $38

Rollors Backyard Game
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When you’re sick of bocce, hate horseshoes, and you’re over cornhole, you might want to take up “rollors,” a family-friendly game that combines your favorite traditional backyard festivities into one game for people of all ages.

Find It: Amazon

17. HAMMOCK; $174

hammock
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Rest easy knowing that this 100 percent hand-woven and hand-dyed cotton hammock contributes to artisan job-creation in Thailand.

Find It: Amazon

18. VSSL SURVIVAL ESSENTIALS; $59

Emergency Survival Tent Outdoors
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Compact, convenient, and durable, the VSSL Shelter can come in handy when things don’t go quite as planned. The device—which features a lightweight emergency shelter all within the handle of a compact, weather-resistant aluminum LED flashlight—is designed to keep you safe under the worst conditions.

Find It: Amazon

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