October 09, 2008

Is Catching Up with Old Friends a Good Thing?

A while back I signed up for a Facebook account. I can't remember why exactly -- curiosity or boredom probably. I really didn't understand the point of it all, but signed up for an account. Before I'd filled out any details at all, my friend Blair had found me. I still didn't really get it. I have her e-mail address and she has mine. If we want to keep in touch we already can.

Slowly, I started adding friends, although I went through a mini-crisis trying to decide what the meaning of "friend" is. If I actually stuck to real friends -- people I care a lot about and really want to keep in touch with on a regular basis -- I would probably have about five Facebook friends. I soon discovered that friend on Facebook really often means you have a fleeting memory of passing some one in the halls of high school or college and saying "Hi!" once in a while. I'd feel pretty popular with my seventy-two friends, except that there are a few people who asked to be my friends that I remember only the face and/or name of. I don't even remember saying, "Hi!" to them back in the days of my youth.

I do "get" Facebook now. I really enjoy seeing the status updates and sending brief little messages back and forth with people. It has been nice to regularly be able to check in with actual friends I often only heard from once in a blue moon and there have been a few people I've become reacquainted with about whom I often wondered "Where are they now?".

On the other hand, I've also found out where these people are now and sometimes am struck by how weird they now seem to me and how weird I am sure I seem to them. A few past acquaintances have radically altered their political positions. Others are now followers of pagan goddesses. Some of the more wild ones have settled down -- gotten jobs, spouses and responsibilities. I'm sure also that reading about my being Catholic and having five children has raised more than a few eyebrows amongst people I haven't heard from in years.

Facebook has been an interesting experience to see where I came from and figure out where some of us have gone, but the "friend" thing is still strange to me. Would I be friends with these people now? Would they be friends with me? Some would and are. Others, if we hadn't chanced to grow up in the same town or go to the same college, would never be people I'd seek out in my daily life as it currently stands -- even if we were all back in the same place again.


I initially signed up because I am still in (infrequent) real-life contact with some of the young people that were in my groups when they were 3rd and 4th graders in Awana (who are now in their early to mid twenties - yikes!). They suggested it as a way to vaguely keep in touch.

"Friend" is a misnomer. If you view Facebook as a networking site, it might be more appropriate to call them "contacts". That's not nearly so warm and friendly as "friends" - and not as good a marketing tool.

It can be a good resource - should you ever need a follower of a pagan goddess for something, you know exactly where to go!

Posted by: Diane at October 9, 2008 08:18 AM

I'm often struck by how much *less* weird everyone seems now. I guess age and time will grind down the edges of most people.

Posted by: Susanna at October 9, 2008 09:16 AM

I've ignored a number of friend requests from people in high school. My rule of thumb is "would I want to hear about their day to day goings-on in the real world?" if yes, then I accept their friend requests. On one occasion with someone from high school I looked at the person's picture, remembered them, but couldn't for the life of me remember their maiden name. I had to ignore that friend request a couple of times before she finally got the hint.

Posted by: Ellen at October 9, 2008 09:56 AM

I have facebook and have found it interesting at how many people are using it. When I first joined earlier this year there was no one to be found. All of a sudden people are showing up left and right.
I come from a small town and it's been interesting to reconnect with old classmates.
I don't usually send requests to people I barely know. I've had a few people send friends requests that I don't know or vaguely remember, but they went to my high school. One of them was asking another friend of mine who I was on the wall-to-wall comments. I was wondering who she was too and we eventually figured it out, but why add someone if you don't even know who they are? Just because they were in your graduating class?Even after that neither one of us have made contact. Stuff like that is weird to me, but for the most part it's been fun catching up with old friends and keeping in touch with current ones.

Posted by: Melissa at October 9, 2008 12:27 PM

I'm staying out of the social networking web. Just not appealing to me. I think my hubby would die of embarrassment if I ever took a notion to join! He's just gotten used to me blogging! lol

Posted by: Kim at October 9, 2008 09:14 PM