Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The True Purpose of Facebook

I sat up until late last night (okay, early this morning) with a good book (Jeffrey Lent's In the Fall), blissfully unaware that I had to get up at 6am this morning to take my eldest in to her differential equations class. After 4.5 hours of sleep, I was looking and feeling my best, naturally, with about 90% of my brain committed to operating a motorized vehicle without mishap.

My daughter, naturally, thought this would be a good time to go over what she needs to study for her first differential equations exam. My bleary brain was about three leaps behind her.

She described several concepts. I nodded in a way that I hoped looked less sleep-deprived than I felt. She then described another concept, and said, “I forget what that one is called; it means something like negligible and it starts with an S.”

“I'm no help!” I laughed, “The only two words I can remember that start with S are synecdoche and syncretism, neither of which will be much use in differential equations.”

We sang along to the music for another ten minutes while my brain climbed to a higher level of consciousness.

“Oh!” I said suddenly, “I've discovered the one true purpose of Facebook, the one thing that justifies its existence forever.”

“The ability to make your relationship status public?”

“No,” I laughed.

“The ability to humiliate people by unfriending them?”

“No, no.”

“The fact that adults don't know how to use email these days?”

“No..., well, YES, actually. People don't know how to use email, it's true, and think that it's too much trouble, but that's not enough to justify the existence of Facebook.”

I thought then how my daughter is often able to latch onto great truths that escape me because they're under my nose. I mused about how email and blogs are too much trouble, because they require people to actually write something that requires some time and thought, while Facebook and Twitter and IM are better suited to quick quips.

“The one thing?” she prompted.

“Oh yes, the one thing. The one thing that justifies the existence of Facebook forever is...”

She looked at me with amused eyebrows while I finished the drumroll.

“...haiku,” I finished triumphantly.

She looked thoroughly confused.

It's true, however. No sooner had I set a pixelated foot in Facebook than my old haiku friends, some of the few people who are serious about English-language haiku that tries to do in 10-14 English syllables what Japanese haiku do in 17 onji.

These people used to hang out on email lists, creating long beautiful chains of haiku and eyeing one another's word choices and use of season words critically. A few years back, they all vanished. They have all been lurking on Facebook, apparently, waiting for me to get with it.

I have missed them.

1 comment:

Anton Sherwood said...

But did you ever find the S-word?