Jan
17
2010

  The Lure of The Childish on Facebook

I haven't figured out why adults feel compelled to participate in childish things on facebook. And it's not like I can't relate, because I am one of the participants!

When I first started using facebook, it seemed to me very much like a high-school (or perhaps more accurately, middle-school) locker. I don't know if kids do this anymore, but we used to put message boards on the locker, and people could leave us notes to see between classes. And we put photos and things on the inside of our lockers, and our friends could see what we had in there if they were nearby. Facebook is a lot like that.

But lately there have been more of these "in" games going on. The first I noticed was when women would just have a color as their "status". I immediately presumed it was to announce to the world what color underwear you had on at the time you updated to that status. So I immediately checked, and posted "lilac."

Now, I wouldn't have posted a status "Heidi Thorsen is wearing lilac underwear." That's too much information for facebook friends, don't you think? But when my friends started posting colors, I admit it was intriguing, and it made me want to post colors, too. And the status "Heidi Thorsen lilac" is considerably more tasteful than the alternative. I later did a quick google search on "facebook colors status" or something like that and found out it was really supposed to be what color bra you were wearing, and the purported goal was to raise awareness about breast cancer. Which is a very adult justification for advertising your underwear color to the world at large. But I don't think altruism was really the draw that ensured mass participation.

I think it was the combination of feeling like you were part of a clique (this clique being defined merely by knowing what color to post in your status), and also of doing something taboo without suffering any consequences from "misbehavior." There are relatively few things one can do to work out that feeling of rebellion without suffering consequences. A popular activity would be to drink too much, or eat something decadent, but those activities, while they are satisfying during the act, will make you hungover and fat afterwards. Which takes away from the fun of the act in the first place if you think about the consequences at the time. Which is why you try not to think about the consequences, that is part of the psychological exercise going on there, but you know. And doing drugs runs the risk of getting caught and getting a jail record or paying legal fees, likewise driving too fast, or doing something naughty in public, etc.

But publicly posting what color underwear you've got on? Naughty, subversive, but with ultimately no adverse consequences. Which is why I think no one suggested posting photos of what bra you were wearing to "raise awareness of breast cancer." Since those photos, once on the internet, might actually come back to haunt you and have negative consequences. Who wants to see pictures of their pediatrician's boobs online? But if they post "black" as their status, then they are cool and subversive. And of course you want a cool and subversive pediatrician, right? This is just an example, I have no idea if my pediatrician even uses facebook.

The latest "thing" going around is putting seemingly nonsense stuff in your status. Here's a few my friends put up:

I did the macarena with my brother in your bathroom because that's how I roll.

I jumped on my brother in my car because I'm sexy and I do what I want.

I jumped on a squirrel in my car, because I'm sexy and I do what I want.

I kicked an ipod in my car because I'm cool like that.

There was obviously some formula to it, and I wanted in on the game. Pre-internet, you actually would have to be good enough friends with one of the "cool people" that they would voluntarily pull you aside and tell you how to play along, or you could ask them and trust they'd tell you without blabbing that you were so uncool for not knowing in the first place. Post-internet, you just need a search engine.

With a few clicks, I found a guide online that included the instructions from the viral email (I'm actually glad I don't get those, I'd rather participate selectively than have to delete every dumb thing that gets sent out). One of the stipulations was that you "NOT TELL ANY BOYS" what this is about, so I won't explain it here. Unlike the bra thing, it's not in the least bit racy, except for how the statuses turn out sometimes.

So here's mine:

I had lunch with a snowman in my car because I'm sexy and I do what I want.

That turned out pretty well, I think. As a hint to what all these mean, one of my sisters would have the same sentence as me, except with a different rationale at the end.

It turned out well for me on facebook, too, since I got two comments on my status; one from an ex-boyfriend who commented, "Don't know what that means but I like it," and also from one of Terry's friends, "I agree, I don't know what that means either, but its entertaining!" It is better to leave the men in the dark, we would cease to be mysterious creatures if they knew the formula for updating these statuses.

After some thought, I guess I do see how all these little games make life more interesting. While a few people are naturally interesting, or mysterious, or whatever, most people are not. Or at least, most people are dull most of the time, and are only occasionally interesting. But these games give otherwise dull people a moment of interesting-ness. And that is good for both the person, who gets to feel smug and in-the-know for a few hours, and also for whoever is reading the status updates, because frankly this stuff is more interesting than yet another, ". . .has a headache", ". . .is glad it's Friday", ". . .is having a great day!", etc etc.

So viva la facebook games! Making dull middle-aged women interesting for a few minutes at a time! I'll take whatever I can get. It's certainly easier than actually being interesting for a few minutes. Even at parties, I can hardly be bothered to try to be interesting anymore. It was more a way of life when I was very young and single, and I was pretty fun at parties (ask around if you don't believe me). But I'm just lazier and lazier as I get older, and any effort to be socially sparkling and effervescent doesn't seem to have the payoff it used to. In NYC especially, it got me invited to other cool parties in an expanding cycle, but here it would just increase the number of gatherings where a handful of adults hang out making small-talk for a few hours while the kids play in the middle of the room, and we're all home by 10pm at the latest. Yawn. Not that I really have room to complain, I haven't thrown any good parties myself in several years. The baby really does put a damper on things, there's a limit to how wild you want things to get when you're trying to keep the kid asleep from 7:30pm on. We'd need a live-in nanny to be able to really throw some good parties now, so someone can sit quietly in the house while the baby sleeps. And we'd need that entertainment bunker I want. A partially-underground hall in the side field where we can put up a light system yet the noise from the band wouldn't carry to all the neighbors. Yeahhh.