Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last few weeks, you’ve heard of the movie that’s coming out over the weekend. It’s called The Social Network. It tells the story of the founder of Facebook and how this global phenomenon got started. I’ve worked with teens and college students for a long time and I remember a few years ago when I was seemingly the lone, creepy 30-something in a sea of 18-22 year-olds on Facebook. At the time it was mainly just for college students. These days, it seems every [real or fictional] living thing on the planet has an account.
It’s fascinating how we communicate to each other, about each other, and about ourselves through Facebook. Especially in that little box that says “what’s on your mind?” It’s a beautifully complex question that often brings wonderfully simple and funny (intentional or not) answers.
If you pay attention, you begin to notice several templates that seem to dominate the art of creating meaningful, clever, or thought-provoking status updates. Here are a few I’ve either observed, admired, scoffed at, or mastered over the years…
- The formula status. These are math wizards who relate life experiences to an equation. Typically, these formulas revolve around happy experiences, but not always. But it doesn’t really matter. Either way, you can’t fight the math. So as 2+2 = 4, so “Scrapbooking + Olive Garden + good friends = a great night.” Example: Hannibal Lecter… “Liver + fava beans + a nice Chianti = a tasty supper.”
- The song-lyric status. These people communicate the message they want to get across with the words to their favorite tunes. There are 3 different kinds. The thief just types the words to a song without any quotes or reference, thereby fooling you for a brief time into thinking they actually came up with it. The User includes quotes but doesn’t reference the artist, making you wonder if this is poetry, a movie quote, a book excerpt, or a fortune cookie. The Purist uses quotes and references the artist, because, well, who needs a lawsuit? Example: Tony Stark… “I am Iron Man, ba da da da da da da da da da…”
- The cryptic code status. These are the people who use their status as a dagger aimed straight to the heart and psyche of one individual on their friends’ list. They make a statement that is so vague and cloaked in mystery that only one other person on the planet knows what it means (or at least the writer hopes so). The aim could be anything from revenge to guilt. The motives range from anger to jealousy. But if you’re not the person it’s intended for, don’t even try to figure it out. Not even the C.I.A. could crack that code. Example: Jack Shephard…”Lost and brooding in a bermuda love triangle.”
- The Old-Fashioned Letter status. This status usually begins with “Dear…” and is addressed not to a person, but some concept, object, or favorite thing that is either causing you joy or pain. It almost always ends with a closing (sincerely, love,) followed by the person’s name. Days of the week make frequent appearances (“Dear Monday, Dear weekend,”) as do sports affiliations (Dear Braves, Dear Bulldogs, Dear Cowboys Cheerleaders,) Example: Winnie-the-Pooh… “Dear Hunny, I love you. You will be yummy in my tummy at breakfast, lunch, and, what’s that other meal called again? Oh, bother. With warmest regards, Pooh Bear.”
Ahh, Facebook. What a revolution. For some it’s just a fun diversion, for others it’s a critical part of the way they do business, and most are addicted to it like it was crack cocaine. A few well-intentioned people would argue that Facebook is inherently bad and, among other things, causes marriages to fail. In the same way, you could have blamed divorce on cars or cell phones when they became available for public use. If we allow this type of thinking to play out to its logical conclusion, then we’ll have to get rid of our blackberrys, SUV’s, and iPads and spend the rest of our lives “living in an Amish paradise” (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Marriages fail because they are made up of people. And people fail. It’s what we do. We’re broken. To blame a social networking site for our problems is to ignore thousands of years of human history. We can’t get off the hook so easily.
I guess Facebook is like anything else. It’s a tool. In this case, a communication and networking tool. You can use it for good or you can use it carelessly. You can enrich people’s lives or you can attempt to tear them down. You can communicate love, laughter, and other beautiful things or you can use it as your own personal vent. It can help you in your relationships, or it can tear them apart. The choice really is yours, so…what’s on your mind?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a pending friend-request from Winnie-the-Pooh…