By dawn today I had dozens of sweet birthday wishes springing from my computer screen, mostly from old friends, some reaching all the way back to elementary school.
Some of these good wishes come from folks I see in my real, human life. But most are from faces that, in my mind's eye, are stuck in the blazing and vibrant memory loop of adolescence. Many of these notes come from long-lost high school friends whose lives, images and narratives I reconnected with on one of the world's greatest and, apparently, most dangerous inventions: Facebook.
There is something incredibly powerful about those reclaimed connections. Finding them again later in life can be profound. Maybe it's like finding the best parts of yourself.
Facebook serves lots of daily, mundane, plan-making, time-wasting, insipid purposes. But for those of us of a certain age, at least for THIS gal of a certain age, Facebook is like a human time capsule reconnecting me with my favorite parts of my life and the wonderful people from those hormonally-ablaze times. It's like leaping into a Bruce Springsteen song.
For those of you not familiar with this social media contraption, it's like a huge high school reunion where you don't have to lose weight or talk to anybody mean.
It functions like a wire service or telegraph only the messages come through on your computer screen attached to the friendly faces and messages from only the pals you allow into your page by 'Friending' them. It's a brilliant forum for keeping up on what folks are doing, have been doing for the past few decades. You see photos of their kids and lives, notes they post on interesting work or hobbies or news from the trenches of their current existence. Best of all (for us) it's completely filtered through the rosy-hued prism of their public presentation of self. You decide which photos, for example, to 'publish.' You decide who gets to see what you publish and you decide what content goes on your 'page.'
(Warning: There are all kinds of ways in which there are enormous holes in this 'you control it' system, which I will discuss at length in future posts. But for today, we're loving it.)
The key is you better make your relatives and real-life friends swear a blood-oath not to post any unflattering pictures or the jig is up.
And, you get a guaranteed online birthday bash because if you choose to add your actual birthday onto your site (future post will tell you not to do this) then it automatically tells all of your friends it's your big day and they send you happy birthday notes so you wake up and check Facebook (before you even wake up your kid for school) and there's your insta-birthday party.
I just got 'Friended' by a girl who was my bestest friend when I was in 2nd grade. My daughter can't believe I was ever her actual age AND that I had friends! Old neighbors, colleagues; these are not mere social networky associations. Many of these peoples' faces and names alone make me burst into tears.
I am so moved and happy to reconnect with them and our connection — new media freaky-deaky as it is — is genuine and important. It is true, many people who message each other regularly on FB, as the kids call it, would not have taken the time to search for each other in real life. And they don't get together in their physical lives.
There are many discussions about how to keep children safe online. In a later post I will talk about that. What I didn't know was that adults are even more at risk.
This leads to Part II, in which we explore how FACEBOOK IS KILLING YOUR MARRIAGE!
In her thoughtful Psychology Today piece, 'Lost Love: Guess Who's Back?' Pamela Weintraub explores the heightened power of these reconnections.
"Old flames still smolder, especially when they're early love affairs, which leave a particularly vivid mark in our minds. Reawakening such a romance can be an incendiary experience—intensely passionate and dangerous to trifle with."
I've had lots of conversations recently that affirm this trend. A group of long-lost friends of mine from elementary and middle school (who found each other through Facebook) got together recently. I like to think I'm pretty hip to the new media trends but I was stunned to hear how many long-lost or newly-found relationships on Facebook had turned marriages upside down. Some remain torrid but only online, but many cross over into the physical world and are wreaking havoc.
Pastors, preachers, ministers and rabbis publicly sermonize against the scourge and privately counsel their flock against even dabbling in it.
Around the world some religious leaders have issued an urgent edict against it, warning one small step down this road is a guaranteed trip to hell.
I even found sites where private investigators are abuzz about the new tools for hunting an age-old prey – the cheat.
On chat rooms all over the web spouses share stories of marriages torn asunder by what starts off as an innocent exploration of one's past. Here are a couple of examples:
"Facebook has ruined my marriage of almost 20 years. My wife "reconnected" with old boy friends and even started innocently flirting with a stranger. They all got out of control. I'll never be the same, I'll never be able to trust a woman that way again. I've never understood the facination of "catching up" with an old flame. If it is passing by and accidental, sure, fine, spend 5 minutes. But DON'T exchange contact info, don't meet up for "innocent" coffee or lunch someday. Think about it, whether it be online or face to face, you are doing something YOU WOULDN'T DO WITH YOUR SPOUSE SITTING RIGHT THERE NEXT TO YOU. That is keeping secrets from your spouse, keeping secrets is lying. Lying kills marriage....period."
Here's another post:
"I have some friends who's marriage is in trouble b/c of facebook...won't say which spouse got involved with an old classmate, but it happened and it was emotional and now their marriage is on the verge of ending. It is bad when people abuse sites like this, b/c on the other hand it is a good way to keep in touch with family and old friends who you grew up with ect. It's just when things start getting too "personal" when you're catching up with an old friend that's when it get's shakey. Catching up with old friends in itself isn't bad, it's when you start taking it too far. And I WISH people could see the warning signs for when it is getting to that point."
Consider yourselves warned.
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