There are a lot of inconsistencies in my personality. I’m a tech junkie, and yet tend to cling to ancient and outmoded machines far past their age. There are handy computer applications that I know I’d probably use like crazy that I willingly bypass for no other reason other than pure bloody mindedness. I don’t know why I do this to my self, but I do. Eventually though, I usually cave in.
Facebook is my prime example of the moment. I’ve known about it and it’s teenybopper cousin, Myspace for ages now, but just couldn’t bring my self to get into it any farther than a disparaging glance would bring me. Avoiding Myspace was simple enough. It screamed its gaudy, bubblegum snapping attitude loud and clear and I immediately knew that I had more important things to focus on…. like breathing.
Facebook, on the other hand at lest has the veneer of being something slightly more adult. I say “veneer” because behind its conservative and uncustomisable front page, it’s just as full of yahoos tagging you with silly “25 Things you don’t know about me” chain letters. What surprised me was how many of those yahoos were old friends whom I had lost touch with and was genuinely happy to hear from again.
I finally succumbed to setting up a Facebook account when I was desperately trying to get a message to an individual whose email address I had lost. I knew he was on Facebook and that you could send messages to other users. A few minutes and snarky, glib informational statements for my profile, and I was on. I sent the friend request and accompanying message and I thought that was that. I wasn’t looking for anyone else except my friend Ian… and that was for work purposes only.
Then it began.
The very first “out of the blue” friend request came from a high school ex-girlfriend whom I had gone out with for about a month. THAT one caught me off guard and frankly, spooked the hell out of me. I’ve never been back to my high school, not even for reunions… actually, especially to the reunions, and really didn’t want to start reliving the thrill that was the eleventh grade. I’m a gracious guy though, or at least I try to be, so I accepted the friend request and mercifully, haven’t heard a peep from her since.
College friends are another thing all together. First of all, I really liked my college. It was a small, artsy, Catholic college full of really wonderful people. For the most part, it was an all around great experience. I say it “was” because it isn’t any more. I’m not saying that it’s not a hip happening place. It’s actually gone.
It had been around since nineteen-fifty and when I attended, they were in the throws of trying to expand. New buildings were being bought, new land set aside and new majors added. Even as art and education majors, I remember the talk on campus being about how confused we all were as to why they were trying to change their focus. The had been well known as a teaching and liberal arts school and for some reason, they had decided to try and spin a gigantic cocoon and emerge as a sport medicine and pre-pharm institution. As things turned out, the board of directors should have listened to the commercial art majors and stuck with what they knew and were known for. About five or six years after I graduated, the school was closed and the parts sold off. Strange to think that my old dorm is now someone’s permanent home. I hope they could successfully paint over the glow in the dark stars I put all over the ceiling.
Over the years since we left on our individual journeys, a few of us have managed to stay in touch. We were just on the edge of the technology revolution back then but just a tad too early for email. To my knowledge, I was the only one in the entire dorm with a computer and I used to have to snake a fifty foot phone line down the hall to a foolishly unsecured phone jack just to hack my way online via telnet. There was no “web” at this point with its pretty pictures and blogs, but if you knew where to look, there was fun to be had.
Not always one-hundred percent legal fun, but fun nonetheless.
So fast forward a fist full of years and you get me sitting in my living room with an amazed look on my face as I see names appear on my screen that I haven’t read in a long, long time. My old roommates pop up like gophers out of unseen holes. People whom I whittled away the small hours with as we solved the world’s problems drop by to say “Hey! How have you been?” Some folk who seem enthusiastic to find me… I do not recall in any way, shape or form. That’s a tad uncomfortable… but I bluff my way along and ask about their families and what they’ve been up to.
For the next couple of weeks I was sucked in entirely. The Facebook monster had eaten me whole as old faces and names appeared from my past. It was like discovering that a party had been going on in a building you had walked past every day for years and you just happen to know everyone there.
Well, almost everyone. Their families are fine, by the way.
Things have calmed down a bit now since I first joined the shindig and the initial greetings and whirlwind of hugs and double fisted handshakes has subsided. I’ve got my drink now and I’ve found a seat at a good table and just like in real life, when you’re forced to reacquaint yourself with an individual whom you’d rather have let disappear into the Sands of Time, you can always back away after the uncomfortable greeting and forced smile as you motion at your empty glass and look for some people you’d rather be chatting with under the guise of a top up.
The best thing that this has done is let me back into the daily lives of some of the people whom have meant the most to me over the decades. Mountain Man is there and I get to hear about his kids and wife and what they are up to. Ioseph is there as well in all his flammable, danger prone glory. Right now I can look at the pictures he’s taking as he travels across Syria and Lebanon on one of his crazy, T. E. Lawrence inspired vacations. The palest man I know is inexplicable drawn to the places on the globe with the most possible sun exposure. Some day he’s going to get his fill of Vitamin D.
The odd parts now are the holes that I see. Friends who have not succumbed to the siren song of Facebook and remain noticeably missing, like empty chairs at the table. Where’s The Doctor? What’s keeping Wendy? Has anyone seen Charlie? I won’t bug them to come in and join. It somehow seems gauche to twist their arms and ask them to sign up. They know its there and can come to the party or not. It’s their call. I can understand the reluctance if they would rather not pop in. After all, I was a latecomer as well.
I hope they do come eventually though. The goofy contests and “which world leader are you?” quizzes aside, it reminds me a lot of the common rooms at my now non-existent college. You can pop in any time, add your two cents and then get back to what ever you were doing. Productive? Not a chance, but it is nice to see some friends, long thought lost and now rediscovered, again.
With some luck, my ex-girlfriend will stay on the other side of the room as I sip my drink and talk about philosophy and beer fueled adventured gone by with the guys.