Sunday, February 19, 2017

REMINISCING: Social Media Origami

The idea for this week’s Reminiscing comes to us courtesy of Scott Leffler. I asked him what I could write about this week and he mentioned this subject. I’ll be discussing my generation’s social media -- the intricately folded notes that we passed from one to another in junior high and high school. That was the way we communicated with each other in school. Whether it be a surreptitious pass to the cute girl in the next aisle when the teacher’s back was turned, or while passing in the hall, our news spread through these little, folded pieces of paper.

I’m sure it seems to some people that we’ve had computers forever. Sure, we had them when I was in elementary school, but it was only one machine and it travelled from room to room for a week at a time. There was no internet, at least as we know it today. Even into high school, computers were rare and extraordinarily expensive. So, it came down to notes to engage with our friends.

The folding of these piece of paper could be works of art themselves. They could be simply folded to resemble the paper footballs that were played with at the lunch tables. (We broke the light in my parent’s dining room while playing that game -- a fact that I still hear about occasionally.) Other times, they could be folded intricately into a beautiful creation that was awfully heartbreaking to unfold sometimes.

Young teen lust oftentimes came off sappy, sometimes soulful, and mostly weird. I kept some examples of those I had received for a long time afterwards. Reading through them with some more mature years under my belt, I realized how uncomfortably bad we were at wooing the opposite sex. It was truly amazing that some of us ever got dates. (Some of us had a pretty difficult time. Case and point -- this author. Rich Dodge STILL thinks I made Wendy up from my imagination.)

Somehow, I ended up with a few notes that I wrote to a girlfriend in 9th grade. I am still not sure why I did it, but I wrote her a long note declaring my ever-lasting love for her only using song titles of popular songs from the time period. Since we’re talking about 1988 or 1989, the song titles ran along the lines of “Hungry Like a Wolf” and “Nothin’ But a Good Time.” You can probably guess the tone of the rest of the letter from that.

There was a great deal of trust with friends that came along as a part of this social media outlet. Sometimes, you’d have to give the note to a friend to give to “Suzie in 4th period.” That trust came with lots of hope. You hoped that the note actually got to Suzie, in the correct period, in order to make sure you and Suzie were on the same page for lunch that day. You hoped that if he did deliver it, that he didn’t read it first. If he did read it, you hoped that he wouldn’t tell the rest of your friends how horribly sappy you were. You could lose macho points in no time.

You always had to be on the lookout for teachers. If you were passing the epistles in class, you had to time it right in order not to get it confiscated. And then you had to really, really hope that if it did get intercepted by the teacher, that it wasn’t read out loud to the rest of the class -- either by the teacher, or by the author as a means of punishment by that teacher.

I wondered if kids today still passed notes in this way at all. I figured there may be a few kids out there who shunned the digital notes and played the old fashioned way. Since Wendy is a teacher, she would be the best to ask. And since she teaches in the Middle School, I thought that maybe most of those students wouldn’t have phones yet. I was wrong.

Occasionally, she says, a couple kids will still pass physical notes. They are not folded like the ones we had. Mostly, the notes are written on torn pieces of paper with not a lot of information contained. If they’re passing notes, what they generally do is use a 1-subject, spiral notebook and carry on a “conversation” in that. I used to do that when I was attending NCCC.

Students today aren’t supposed to have their phones in class, but it seems like it would be a nearly impossible rule to enforce. I’m sure they text each other on their devices rather than go through all the trouble of actually writing real words. There doesn’t seem to be any beautifully penned homages to those objects of desire anymore. With using an emoji or a TTYL, these kids have lost the incredible talent of using song titles to declare their love. They have no idea what they’re missing. And folding a love note is far more than simply folding a piece of paper into  fourths or eighths.

So, dear readers, how many of you out there can still fold those notes from back in the 1980s? Who was the best folder of your friends? There were some amazing piece of art folded with love in those days. Maybe I’ll write one for Wendy and give the old folding note a try. It will be sweet.

Craig Bacon prefers real love over emoji love. He thinks Family and Consumer Science classes should dedicate one class to the fine art of note folding.