I woke up yesterday feeling intellectually under-caffeinated. When that didn’t change after a large cup of coffee, I decided something else needed to happen—and in the random and mysterious ways of the subconscious, I started thinking about some wordplay around letters of the alphabet. I started, of course, with “A,” and came up with almonds, alfalfa, and asparagus off the top of my head. As I wrote them down on a scrap of paper, next to my computer, my conscious mind took over, and I thought about Tweeting my three words. But … why?
Why indeed. My three words all happened to be foods, and I thought it might be fun to focus my brain teaser a bit further by requiring all the words for each letter to be foods. The alliteration was clear (if nonsensical—but then, the whole thing was nonsensical), so I thought of calling them “alliterative diets.” But who would do a diet of almonds, alfalfa, and asparagus? It seemed more fun expressly calling them fake diets. Alliterative fake diets. And so a Twitter hashtag was born.
If none of this sounds funny, well, you had to be there. It’s not funny the way that most humor isn’t once you start dissecting it–so I’ll stop, and just point out that you can see the (public) list of my Tweeted #AlliterativeFakeDiets by clicking on that link. Then I’ll move on to say that what you (most likely) cannot see is the way this took off on Facebook with a couple of friends. They responded to my silly idea precisely because it was silly, and because they like food, and by the time I’d gotten to “F,” the theme was fairly clear and they were off and running. All the letters not at the link above were covered by my friends, on Facebook, from their own inspiration.
And this, you might say, is why I love the internet—and have come to love social networking in particular. Not so much because I created a nonsensical brain teaser for myself and then others thought it was fun, but because it makes it possible to have fun with people, in near-real-time, over distances large or small. If I had just mentioned it to my wife, she would probably have brushed it off as early morning nonsense. My three year old might have enjoyed playing, but I couldn’t stick around all day to hear her come up with food words. My colleagues might have enjoyed this (at least some of them) but I didn’t want to forcibly interrupt—and, anyway, some of them follow me on Twitter and could join in there. Why share them over Twitter in the first place? Because my “alliterative fake diets” concept is exactly the sort of thing that works well on the internet generally and Twitter and Facebook in particular.
I got combinations for the first few letters fairly quickly, and popped them into Twitter, and it had served its original purpose for me: my word recall had improved, my brain was firing a bit faster, and the caffeine was now doing its neuron-connecting job more effectively. But the “conversation” around this with friends took it to a whole new level: it went from brain teaser to mood changer. How could it not be uplifting to see them coming up with combinations like “wasa, waterzoi, watermelon,” and then discussing whether there were rules about what could be included or why one combination worked better than the other? The internet was built for this. Maybe not purpose-built, but it serves the purpose nonetheless. And while it’s easy to laugh off as a means of wasting time, in this case I think the intellectual and emotional benefits were well worth it. We finished the alphabet, which felt good, and that’s a feeling I won’t dismiss easily.