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Friend Book

So I’m cleaning out my bookmarks and dumping them on you, one by one, probably on Sundays.  If you’re playing along on your own blog, leave a comment with a link to your post in the comment section below.  I’ll scoop those up and post them as a “second helping” at the bottom of my post next week so that your post gets another round of eyes.

The 1500’s version of Facebook was called alba amicorum.  They were books that people passed around when they were hanging out with other people, and they would jot down thoughts in the pages.  Mental Floss writes,

They would draw in each other’s books, share secrets, scribble inside jokes, and gossip about their romantic prospects. As a result of being passed around from friend to friend, these books tend to be a little more cluttered and a little less photogenic than the neatly organized recommendation books men created.

Oh, the men got to fill their books with recommendations from people they met on their travels, sort of like LinkedIn.  Women were left to giggle about song lyrics.

On one hand, there’s no delete button when you’re writing in ink, and if you cut a chunk out of your book, everyone would know.  But on the other hand, you don’t have to worry about people continuously dredging up old pages of your book if you never bring it out again.  You really own it, whereas I don’t feel like I truly own the words I write on Facebook.  I just sort of set them there, and they sit there.  Like a lump.

I really love this idea.  Not the fact that people apparently used it as a measure of popularity, but the idea of women in the 1500’s lounging around, writing witty things in each other’s alba amicorums.  Or the idea of spending an afternoon looking back at your book.  Or really, just the act of schlepping this leather-bound book with you to a party so people could jot down things on the page.

If you gave me a choice between the offline or online version of social media, I’d take the offline one, hands down.  Sure, Facebook is easy, but it also leads to so many hurt feelings or confusion or frustration.  Most of the time, people write on their own wall, informing others of things.  This is very different from someone writing on your wall and giving you the enjoyment that comes with listening.

Plus it reminds me of things like playing MASH on the school bus when we were little.  Do you remember MASH where you learned whether you’d live in a mansion, apartment, shack, or house?  And whom you would marry?  And how many kids you’d have?  And your job?

What about you?  Would you rather have an offline or online version of social media?


1 Cristy { 01.17.16 at 9:07 am }

Offline. Granted, online is easy. But it’s too easy to become detached and there’s a loss of intimacy knowing that complete strangers have the potential to view what one is writing.

We had a similar version of this when I was in middle school. Girls would keep spiral bound notebooks where they wrote notes to each other, poems, songs, etc. The outsides of these notebooks were always beautifully decorated too.

2 SuzannaCatherine { 01.17.16 at 9:13 am }

I don’t remember the MASH game.

From the Middle School grades I do remember something called a “slam book”. These were usually written in a stenographer’s notebook with a different question at the top of each page. Most had only 10 to 15 questions but they were of the prying and/or embarrassing type. Some of the entries were really funny-some budding comedians were always seeing who could think up the best answers. Not the truth, you understand, but hilarious none the less! Of course, these slam books were against the “rules” and many a book was confiscated. (0nly to be enjoyed in the Teacher’s Lounge later in the day, I’m sure!)

Thanks for the jog to the memory!

3 SuzannaCatherine { 01.17.16 at 9:16 am }

PS I’d say offline. On line is like carving it in stone. It never goes away!!

4 Catwoman73 { 01.17.16 at 9:18 am }

If I had to choose, I would likely say offline as well. Mostly because it is so much more personal, and so much more honest. I feel like people’s lives, as they are presented on FB, are a bit of a fabrication. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have been shocked by people’s divorce announcements on FB, because until that very point, all I had seen was pictures of happy family vacations, and smiling children and so on. It is much harder to present a lie when writing something down in someone’s alba amicorum, with that person being present in the room, and seeing the reality of who you are right in front of them.

I have a friend that has a book in his basement bar that everyone is required to write in whenever you attend a party there. It’s so much fun to look back over the entries as the years pass. I’m thinking we should start something similar at home, now that we have decided to make entertaining more often a priority.

5 Charlotte { 01.17.16 at 9:59 am }

Oh my Gosh Mash!!! I totally forgot about that game! I will have to ask my kids if they have ever heard of it. How exactly did we play it?? I have vague memories of it. Now it’s going to be on my mind all day!

6 loribeth { 01.17.16 at 10:10 am }

I am not sure. I agree with the commenters above about the limits of online & merits of offline. I do like the permanence of an actual book. I suppose if your book is in your home & you keep it there & people write in it there… (although why would you want to come to someone’s house to visit, only to sit in a corner & write in a book?? I guess it depends on whether you’re supposed to write a sentence or a paragraph or a page…! & how much time it would take).

I don’t remember the MASH game (probably after my time…!) but I do remember slam books. I was a fan of a certain tartan-clad pop group in the mid-1970s (cough cough) and we had pen pals who were also fans, from all over the world. (I am still in touch with a couple of my penpals from those days, including one from New Zealand — we’ve been writing each other for 40 years now!). We’d assemble slam books or “fan books (FBs)” with paper & staples and scotch tape, with questions on each page about the group, and decorate the pages (& your own entries) with coloured pens and stickers and photos cut out of Tiger Beat and 16 magazines, etc. 😉 You’d send yours out to a pen pal — by mail, of course; no other way back then, unless you happened to be visiting someone personally — and they’d send it to one of their pen pals and so on, and the last person would return it to you — you hoped. Sometimes you never got it back 🙁 but sometimes you’d get it back, months later, and get to see all the places where it had travelled. Sometimes you’d find new pen pals/friends that way. 🙂

Here’s my post for this week:


7 Mali { 01.17.16 at 7:58 pm }

We used to have a friendship book when we were kids, and would invite friends to write things in it. Often they were silly rhymes, and so weren’t really like offline social media.

I get so much pleasure from online social media, keeping in contact with family and friends from all across the world – many of whom I have known for over 30 years – that I have to buck the trend and say I much prefer online social media. And then if you include the profound depths of thoughts, emotions, and society that we explore in the blogging world, or that assisted me through tough times with messageboards, those days of blackout seem dismal indeed.

8 torthúil { 01.17.16 at 11:28 pm }

I had never heard of this idea. I like it! It sounds a lot more intimate than Facebook. I think I could use Facebook in a more meaningful way, but I’ve kind of ceased to care; so right now it’s a lot of noise and the often annoying memes people post. Not really personal at all. I wrote another bookmark post; it’s here: http://torthuiljourney.blogspot.ca/2016/01/odds-are-sunday-bookmark-challenge-2.html

9 Caryn { 01.18.16 at 7:49 am }

MASH is making the rounds with my girls (12, 10, 9, 8). They came to me with a twinkle in their eyes and I played along as if I had never seen it before. Then told them the truth after. Fun flashback to my youth.

I prefer offline!

10 Kasey { 01.18.16 at 11:26 pm }

My first thought that this is like an autograph book, but for friends.
My second thought is that if I were more practiced at writing to friends through a book like this, then I might be less phobic about writing cards and things (blog comments!) now.

11 tasivfer { 01.19.16 at 7:05 pm }

Why do people assume offline interactions are more genuine? If someone asks you how you’re doing, isn’t your first reaction just to say ‘fine’ or something similar without thinking? When I first started living in a country where I was speaking a foreign launguage daily, I found it was useful for me to basically how memorised any large or complex things I might need to discuss, like who I was and how I was living and working where I was. This made me realise that we actually do this all the time in our home language as well – and sometimes it’s how you deal with or cover what’s going on emotionally under the surface.

Without online communities, I wouldn’t know any of my family or friends from my childhood or young adulthood. Without online communities, I’d think everything I was going through with loss and infertility, etc were unique and my own failing. Without online communities I would have been completely isolated when I had a newborn, especially during those late night breast pumping session.

The friends who live in my computer are real friends, whether local or overseas. In ‘real life’ we have close friends we tell everything to and others we don’t. Sorry, if I’m having trouble in my marriage I’m not going to open up my heart and bleed with every acquaintance just because I can see their faces. The same online.

And it’s interesting that this is being discussed in the context of alba amicorum, which isn’t about sharing your most private self but about what you want to share and how you want to be perceived – much like everyone disses Facebook for (and which I’d argue we do in our ‘normal’ life anyway).

We’re an online community here. And I love it here.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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