Nov. 17, 2011 at 10:54 AM ET
Many Facebook users are telling their friends to copy a strange string of characters into a comment, modify it slightly, and then hit enter. If someone follows these instructions, the text he or she posted turns into "I'm gay." What's going on?
For starters, here's how those instructions typically look:
1. Copy this: @+[251859230739:0]
2. Paste it as a comment below.
3. Delete the "+" sign.
4. Press "Enter."
The secret to the magically changing text is in the first step.
The long number string corresponds to the ID number of a user-created Facebook page entitled "I'm gay." The "@" symbol and surrounding brackets instruct Facebook to convert the ID number into the page's title in a comment or Wall post — and the colon and the zero are supposed to prevent the text from turning into a hyperlink.
(The plus symbol is just there to keep the page ID number from being automatically converted to the page title in the instructions, too — which is why it's necessary to tell people to remove it later on.)
You can have some fun with this trick by using different number strings.
For example: I created a Facebook page entitled "Don't Panic! This is just a test." This page's ID number is 322080934472296, so I changed the instructions to list that instead.
As you can see by the screenshot above, the trick works just as well with that new number as it does with the original. (Though the comments are occasionally turned into hyperlinks to the corresponding page thanks to some sort of quirk.)
It's worth noting that any existing page ID number will work for this purpose. So no need to rush off and create a pile of junk Facebook pages — there are plenty of them already in existence.
Want more tech news, silly puns, or amusing links? You'll get plenty of all three if you keep up with Rosa Golijan, the writer of this post, by following her on Twitter, subscribing to her Facebook posts, or circling her on Google+.