Manjoo sums it up: “Facebook drops ‘is’ status updates, poetry dies”

November 21, 2007

“Is” no more… I’m shocked. I’d seen that group growing over the past couple of weeks and hoped it would all amount to nothing, like most Facebook groups do. I mean, if the world was run by Facebook groups, Stephen Colbert would be president right now. It clearly isn’t, so I’m not sure why Facebook folded on this one. As a poet, I’m like to think I’m used to pronouncements of poetry’s death, but this one is really hitting hard.

Farhad Manjoo on Salon offers his insights on this momentous occasion in the history of online social networking: “Philistines! Have these people had never heard of haikus or sonnets or villanelles? Have they never heard of a dude named Gustave Flaubert, who once pointed out, “One must not always think that feeling is everything. Art is nothing without form”?”

I agree–that “is” was a tiny constraint that often forced me to come up with much more interesting status messages than I otherwise would have. It was a little way to bend the language of mundane life that made it emerge in interesting new directions. It gave your opening page a nice little symmetry, when you could log in and see a long list of what your friends were doing: S is, T is, M is… the “is” felt a little bit like third person omniscience. Also, I knew that people who consistently ignored the “is” and wrote status messages as if it weren’t there were not really cool enough or linguistically attuned enough to be my friends, so I could ignore them without feeling guilty. It was a tiny little code that made Facebook its own world, which I know it still will be, but why does it have to change just to accomodate 64,000 measly, uncreative people?

Sigh. SJ is wanting is back.

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One Response to “Manjoo sums it up: “Facebook drops ‘is’ status updates, poetry dies””

  1. S.O.S Says:

    Wait, wait, wait. Facebook is changing the “is” updates? So now one can just type in anything? I had not heard this (tho I did see your “is” update, and wasn’t sure what it all meant, but those are my favorite sort of “is” updates) 🙂

    You echo my sentiments exactly: having the “is” constraint was a small way of making me rethink how to write the sentiment I wanted to write. I can “proudly” say I never wrote a status statement that ignored the “is” sentence structure. And if I can do that, I can do anything. 😉


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