What's A Facebook Party, Anyway?
Last night, I posted the following tweet:
"Watching my daughter have a 'Facebook Birthday Party' is one of the most fascinating anthropological activities I've ever engaged in."
This tweet inspired a flurry of replies, most of them along the lines of "What exactly is a 'Facebook Birthday Party' anyway?"
Well, let me explain.
A Facebook Birthday Party apparently begins when one person (in this instance, my daughter) invites several other people (in this instance, her Internet friends) to a Facebook Event. This event is, in essence, the party. My daughter created an event called "A.'s Digital Birthday" and changed the location to "Just here!" while she proceeded to "hang out" on the wall of this Facebook Event. She begins with a post: "Got the cake & decorations, waiting for people to come..." while several of her friends click that they "are going" to this event and then proceed to comment on the posts she's put on the wall.
Eventually, A. posts, "Hmm... I think the waiting's over!" which kickstarts a flurry of activity that results in 56 comments to this one post. The flow of the comments sort of follows a weird role-play game, reminding me a great deal of the sort of activities I used to engage in over MIRC as a young teenager myself, and reminding Thomas of the AOL chatrooms he and his teenage Internet friends used to haunt when they were likewise young. A.'s imaginary friend puts a cake on the table, and A.'s Internet friends start putting gifts on the table -- aptly described by such comments as "*lays gift on table*". Some of her friends make food while others relax and still others climb trees. It's such a random hodgepodge of activity, and yet it reads like every single teenage role-play story I've ever read.
I think my favorite part about A.'s Facebook Party was the gifts. One of her friends gave her a Shiny Charmeleon. Another gave her golden Poke Balls. Another said he gave her a $9500 dress, to which A. replied, "It's an over-used-Internet-meme priced dress!" Perhaps the funniest interaction was with the kid who gave her a Keyblade. He told A., "Here, all you have to do is hold it," to which she thanked him, but then he said, "Hey, not so fast. As you touched my Keyblade I lend you the power to hold one of your own. It will come to you when you at a moment of need." A. immediately replied. "Oh. Alright, next one!"
The entire time this party was going on in A.'s Facebook wall, she was also listening to music, drawing pictures on the computer, chatting with people directly in Facebook windows, and being the Queen of Multitasking. I was a little envious of her mad Internet skills.
It's nice, though. Say what you will about the dangers, trials, and tribulations of a Facebook-addicted youth culture, there's a lot to be said about the pervasiveness of imagination, and how much fun it is to be able to pretend to be whatever character you want to be, to be able to befriend people in these shared imagined universes, and to be able to practice and play-act and friendships and relationships through the screen and the keyboard. Admittedly, however, I may only feel this way because I was part of that generation, too.
Still, there seems to be some social development and acquisition of basic etiquette happening in this space. The next morning, A. posted this message on her Facebook status:
"I wanna thank [names of friends, all properly tagged] for coming to my digital birthday. Thank you all! ^_^ Hope you had fun, the cake is all yours! (Sorry if I didn't got a chance to reply when I was about to leave, sorry guys. D: )" She then replied to this status with the comment, "And for the rest, Thank you for the wishes, even if someone didn't came on."
This is absolutely, without a doubt, the most polite I've ever seen my daughter behave. So, there's got to be something to this digital living thing.