More than 20 years ago, Robert Fulghum wrote a brilliant essay entitled "All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten." It was such a profound concept, I once had a poster framed in my den that enumerated those 14 things, including "don't hit people," "warm cookies and cold milk are good for you," and of course, "flush."
I reflected on that list recently because of Facebook.
For those who don't know, Facebook is an internet phenomenon that is changing the way people interact and conduct their lives. It's a great way to reconnect to old and forgotten friends from your high school days, and to keep up with what your grown children and grandchildren are doing. (Heaven knows your kids won't actually TELL you what they're up to).
While mingling on Facebook recently, I realized that it electronically embodies one of the most basic of human interactions, one that first came to light as soon as I was able to figure out which end of the fat first-grade pencil went up.
The minute I could scrawl all 26 letters on the strangely-lined green paper of my Big Chief tablet in a manner that could be deciphered by people who didn't arrive on saucer-shaped space craft or were James Bond-worthy cryptographers, this recitation became the cornerstone of my first-grade social existence:
Do you like me?
None of Dick and Jane's exciting adventures with Spot could match the heart-stopping, stomach-in-the-throat anticipation of awaiting a response to that all important question.
Like most kids at the age of six, I didn't discriminate. Guys got the same note as girls, mostly because they were basically the same to me. I didn't develop the aversion to "gross, yucky girls" until deep into second grade, and had pretty much finished off that phase by fifth grade, when we had our first school dance.
Today, nearly a half century later, I find myself in the same position thanks to Facebook.
In the course of a normal day in real life, we meet new and interesting people, strike up conversations, engage in the occasional "Ginger vs. Mary Anne"-esque debate on Lohan or Kardashian, and maybe even exchange cell phone numbers. Not so we can call each other, mind you, but so we can text one another.
However, it takes
time to ferret out whether a new acquaintance has become a friend or not, and even then we don't have any definitive, documented evidence of the relationship's status.
Except on Facebook.
In the 21st century version of the old "do you like me" question, one person will send another person a "Friend Request," then wait anxiously for the answer.
I realized that it's just like the days of folded notes passed from aisle to aisle between sessions of "1+1" and printing your name a few hundred times on another of those ubiquitous green sheets.
When accessing a schoolmate online from 30 years ago...will they remember me? Will they recognize the name? Did I forget that I used to put bugs in their hair during recess?
Sometimes it's an old colleague you used to go bar-hopping with in third grade. (Monkey bars, that is). Or it could be a co-worker from a job long past. Maybe it's even that cute red-haired girl that scratched an X in the "no" box back in Miss Gallagher's class.
Just like your days in elementary school, sometimes you'll get a confirmation, which is like the cherished "Yes" on your note that leads you to a happy dance that is suspiciously similar to your clumsy gym floor moves at age six.
Sometimes you get no answer at all, leaving you to wonder if the note didn't make it through, or if it's the polite version of a "no." You might even resubmit your request two or three times like a pathetic Internet stalker, the electronic equivalent of standing under someone's window holding a boom box playing Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes."
And, like the class snitch, on rare occasion someone will report you to the Facebook teacher, claiming they don't know you and that you should be sanctioned for daring to bother them when they're doing something important like editing their porn catalog.
Unlike real life, where verbal proclamations regarding a relationship's status are rare, at least you know.
And you don't have to worry about punishments like clapping erasers and cleaning the blackboard after getting caught passing notes in class.
Former award-winning editor and columnist Morris Workman is the author of the Sunbury Press bestseller "Howl of a Thousand Winds," and continues to write weekly articles and a serial novel at www.MorrisWorkman.com. His weekly humor column "Workman Chronicle" appears every Wednesday at www.MesquiteCitizen.com.