I’m getting a flair for Facebook

Published 1:21 am Wednesday, February 18, 2009

“Did you get the piece of flair I sent to you?”

The message popped up in a box on the side of my computer screen. My oldest daughter’s name appeared above the words.

Did I get a piece of flair? I didn’t know how to answer since I had no idea what a piece of flair was or how to find it. I relayed that to my daughter in a message that also popped up in the box.

In yet another message, she explained where to find flair, which I did.

This exchange took place on Facebook, the social communication tool with 175 million active users worldwide, of which I am now one at the invitation of that daughter I mentioned.

The interaction got me thinking about once upon a time when there was a thing called the letter. Remember the letter? Humans used it to communicate with each other often across great distances.

For decades, ink-filled pens and sharpened pencils scratched words on pieces of paper. It took time to put thoughts in a letter. What should we share? What was interesting? How many pages would it take to get our message across and was that too many?

Having answered those questions, we sealed the pages in envelopes and had the ceremonial licking of the stamp before that letter went into the mailbox.

Oh yes, the mailbox — the receptacle for communications, these days known as the container for credit card and sweepstakes offers and bills from businesses that haven’t gone paperless. Remember the mailman walking (nowadays driving a mail truck) toward that box? That brought such excitement if there was the possibility of a letter with your name on it being in his bag.

In once upon a time there were pen pals, strangers from distant places writing letters for the purpose of getting to know each other. We considered what we wanted them to know about us and pondered what we learned about them.

Now we have Facebook and not only do we exchange messages, but we can if we desire, put our faces out there for all to see. We tell the world where we went to school, where we live and work, our relationship status, our favorite books, movies and quotations.

Like playing the seven degrees of separation game, we find connections by scanning our friends’ friends to see if we know any of them. Today I got a request from someone who keeps showing up on my “Friends in Common List.” I have no idea who he is, but I feel I should because we know the same people. Hey, that’s the miracle of Facebook — strangers become instant “friends.”

Thanks to my daughter sending me flair, I discovered Facebook notifications and applications. Not only did I have pieces of flair, but a friend also threw virtual beads at me and another sent me a virtual drink.

As a courtesy, like when we wrote a letter to someone who wrote us first, I threw beads back and sent a drink of my own. I attempted flair, but there is some point system involved and on that detail I remain ignorant.

Yes, once upon a time we had letters. Now we have Facebook messages and applications. I guess time will tell if this brave new world is a place where I live happily ever after.

In the meantime, I may have a piece of flair floating in cyberspace because I’m not sure what I did when I hit the send key or if I had enough points to do anything. So if one of the 175 million Facebook friends gets it, I hope they flair me back.