Saturday, January 31, 2009

Befuddled by Facebook

I signed up for Facebook back in the fall out of curiosity because of something my niece sent me. I was rather surprised at how quickly I got requests to be friends with people. People from my High School who I had no memory of, for example--and multiples of them. People whose names I didn't even recognize asked me to be friends with them. Where were these people when I was in HS? Why didn't they want to be friends with me then? And perhaps a better question, why do they want to be friends with me now?

I mean really? What benefit can they possibly get by being friends with me on Facebook? They get to see who else I become friends with and maybe, if they're lucky, what I'm doing this very moment. How exciting! Oh, or maybe it's all about inviting me to some obscure virtual group--which as far as I can tell, are like adding your name to a club that doesn't do anything. (Kind of like National Honor Society as I recall.) Like, I think I've been asked about 6 times to be part of a help save premature babies group (not exactly the name). I don't think they ask anything of me--money or letters to congress or even a commitment to evangelize to others how to help prevent having a premature baby. They just want me to sign over my name so they will know I, 25+ years after knowing them, may share some common belief with them. I don't get it.

I don't even get why the people who I asked to be friends with from HS accepted my request. I saw their names, got excited, contacted them. And then realized, I have like maybe 2 memories of them. Not even full memories.

I see a name--Oh! I remember her, she played the xylophone in band!--I ask her to be my friend. She accepts. Then I as I start to "write on her wall" I realize I have nothing to really say to her except. . . "I think of you whenever I see someone marching with a xylophone. So do you still do that?" Not exactly something to link us for years to each other. . .

And some of the memories are so vague I can hardly put them into words. "Remember me? Our last names were together alphabetically so you had the locker next to mine. You were cool; I wasn't, but you were nice to me. Not that I remember anything you ever really said to me. I remember you swam competitively so you had kind of greenish hair and a really big neck. Did that go away. . .?"

Or frankly, my memories of them are humiliating to me. 'Oh hi! Remember how you fell back in gym to run around the track next to me because we played saxophones together so you knew I wasn't the big loser I seemed to be. Remember how I always cried in gym? Then, remember how I rewarded your kindness by challenging you in band and taking first chair away from you the first and only time you had it?"

Or my memories are embarrassing to them. "Hey! I remember you! You were the girl who sat behind me in French class and barely passed because you were so caught up in that guy you started sleeping with when you were like 14. You wrote notes to me and thought I was nice. Huh, how interesting to see that you had a kid like the second we graduated. . . You're still really pretty. . ."

Relax, I don't say these things to them. . . well not exactly in these words! I just find that after catching up on 25 years in about a paragraph, we seem to have very little to say to each other. Yet now we are forever linked on this thing called Facebook. Most of these people didn't even sign my yearbook.

Still, I feel like a cad when I delete a request to be friends. I think, I have NO IDEA who you are. Even your picture in the year book doesn't ring any bells. Why would I want to have you poking around my Facebook page? Maybe this hesitancy, this need to be linked with a few instead of the masses is exactly why they weren't my friends in HS.

Yet, I find myself wondering, what is that one memory you have of me? And do I really want to know?

College is worse. I spent more years in college but have many, many fewer names that ring bells. Much fewer memories.

To realize this is befuddling and bittersweet. It's an odd feeling to realize that people who you spend a lot of your life with can become so insignificant. Where else besides in school do you travel with a pack? Okay, so I wasn't friends with Sally, but she was a chatter and the teachers liked her and she was funny. Whether she remembers me or not, I remember her angst about not understanding and her persistence in biology class to have it explained to her until she did how it could be that not all chicken eggs had chicks in them. . . which someone rolled right into how the rhythm method worked. She was a presence in my HS. But it's like we all have such individualized memories that that place in our past wasn't even real.

When my college roommate from my sophomore year and I moved out from each other (I only lived with her a year but we do still keep in touch--the only one of all my roommates), we cried because we had the insight that it would never be the same once we weren't in on the daily comings and goings of each other's lives. Those stupid little details that you only get when you are in close space with someone else--sharing meals with them, watching them struggle with arguments they had with someone or fear of passing a test, or how they sort their laundry.
These little details bind you. Yo u don't get these details when you connect by phone twice a year or in a annual Christmas card.

Sometimes I get annoyed that my mom spends a 45 min call telling me these minute details. What she ate, who she talked to, what she cleaned that day. . . but it is that very sharing of the minutia that keeps us connected. Who else can you call when you just have to tell someone about the awful smelly gas you have??

So maybe I just don't understand well enough how to use this Facebook think. My stepdaughter says she will show me more when she comes in 2 weeks. Maybe it will provide some kind of minutia connecting device that brings me closer to people from a long ago time in my life. . . but I have my doubts.


  1. LOL you are so cute, what a great and insightful post. LOL, 'every time I see someone with a xylophone', LMAO, there are some funny things about facebook for sure, don't get caught up in trying to message everyone, no one expects it, most people just add friends to touch base really. I don't actively message with people that I didn't really socialize with, but I have a way to connect with people, if you wish to, which is something that you had to wait for a reunion to do in the past.

    Having said that, I do have some friends who barely spoke to me in high school, who are now very supportive of what I do, so its an interesting thing, re-connecting.

    I use facebook for networking so its an excellent tool for me.

  2. I'm not really keen on Facebook either. I have one, and it's linked to my Twitter (which I LOVE) but it requires a lot of forethough - have to keep logging in to see what is happening with everyone else. If I can get an RSS, it would be more valuable to me. Same thing with MySpace.


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