I’ve been exploring Facebook recently, after Ina invited me to join, and it really does have some intriguing aspects – it seems to merge many things from many other social sites. Of course I’m the ONLY “faculty member” on it from my university, but what do you expect. Today I noticed this sorting of “stories”, which I found oddly fascinating. It makes me want to click and read about this person’s “network stories” and “relationship stories” – the first includes such dull statements as “X joined the Uni. Bergen network”, the second, well, most of my friends seem not to have “relationship stories” in Facebook, but I have a single relationship story: “Jill is listed as engaged.” It would be much more interesting reading the relationship stories of somone a little more flighty. “Status stories” are pretty dull, I have to say. “Jill is at work.” “Jill is at home.” “Jill is at work.”

While each of these events is not really a narrative in itself, their presentation in consecutive order, with dates, certainly sets up an implied causality or at least sequence – if “The king died, then the queen died of grief” is a minimal narrative (events, sequence, causality), then Facebook stories put together certainly might be. Although they require a different sort of interpretation than a conventional narrative does.

I assume somebody’s written a Facebook fiction, yeah? Or is there hardly any point in fictionalising something already this intriguing?

9 thoughts on “facebook narrative

  1. Glyn


    the sad state of people’s situation comments in Facebook, only serves to reflect the sad state of the writers sense of humour.

  2. Jill

    By “the writer” I take it you mean Facebook itself?

  3. Michael Faris

    It certainly has been interesting following some of my friends’ relationships on Facebook, and how they often break up, get back together, break up again, etc. What’s really interesting is that EVERYONE knows what is going on in their relationship (or at least, a version of it) before they even tell anyone. It does make for an interesting story.

    People’s status messages can also make interesting stories since a lot of Facebook users focus on irony and other forms of humor to tell inside jokes, poke fun at others, etc.

    I’ll add you as a friend.

  4. KF

    My students often use the situation comments quite nicely. From my current news feed:

    Student 1 “is in need of a new profile pic… but what?”
    Student 2 “is not harboring a fugitive.”
    Student 3 “is still sick. Grrr.”
    Student 4 “is mostly cloudy.”
    Student 5 “is harnessing the awesome power of the universe to drive his new Mac Pro.”

  5. Jill

    Oh, situation comments are the status message things? Where you say you’re at work or at home and you can type in your own message instead? Aha.

  6. Francois Lachance

    Dear Dr. Jill and dear jill/txt, it appears that Facebook favours the copula (the verb to be) as a narrative trigger or even as a narration encapusultor. X needs, X negates claim of harbouring, X coping with sickness, X clouds, X harnesses … As the examples that Kathleen F. provided indicate the transitive is missing. Like so many monads… the literature about MUDs and MOOs from their text-based days mihgt be interesting for comparison purposes. I recall having lots of fun with the distinction between “emote” and “say” commands (led to inadvertant imperatives when a user intended to emote but used say).

  7. Kyle

    Jill-> as somebody who is perpetually knee-deep in the blog world, what do you think are effective and reasonable means to publicizing a fiction blog? I became seriously involved in writing mine a few months ago and want to know how to “get it out there”…
    Perhaps you’ve already written a blog on the subject?

  8. Jill

    FranÁois, that’s a great idea for comparison – and you’re right, the grammatical structures provided by the system (MOO, MUD, IM, iChat, Facebook) certainly steer the kinds of story-telling and/or self-representation people can do. Nice.

    Kyle, I really don’t know, I’ve never tried to promote a fiction blog. I just read em 🙂

  9. linda

    i confess that i enjoy the status comments, even the mundane ones … there’s a couple of interesting things i’ve stumbled across on facebook. in particular, mez was writing some experiments involving twittering and her status became an aphoristic theoretical moments. linda

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