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An Ode to Facebook

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05/26/2010

Someone I know used to say whenever her phone rang, "Who could it be? All my friends are here!" That's how I feel when I receive a new friend request on Facebook. Facebook has changed my life. When I go to my list of friends, I feel surrounded by my life— past and present. I resisted joining for many years. When friends told me—  I would love it, had to get on it, and that everyone's doing it— I felt like I was being peer pressured into some kind of strange cyber-cult society. I claimed computer ineptitude. I said I was too old. I said I didn't have time. The truth was, I really didn't understand it. So one day, I don't remember why, after tons of nudging, I did it. I joined the wacky family of Facebook.

Things started slowly. But I was so honored to be found. The poor folks who found me in the beginning would write deep thoughts such as, "Hi! How are you? :)" And I would respond with paragraphs chronicling my life from birth up until that moment they wrote on my wall. Then folks just started coming out of the woodwork. The popular kid with the foot high Afro from grade school. People from my beloved YMCA swim team. Old roommates. Ex boyfriends. Old crushes. People who remembered me from a terrible sunburn I got on an 8th grade school trip to Florida. Boys I played spin the bottle with. Beloved neighborhood friends that moved away when I was too young to know how to stay in touch. Kids I had mentored as teens who were now married—  with kids! I started obsessing before bed about who I was going to "discover" the next morning. Occasionally I would slip out of bed in the middle of the night to see who I could find. And more importantly, to see who had found me.

In the beginning, it was all kinds of fun, but it was driving my husband absolutely mad. He has said, on more than one occasion, that he is a Facebook widower. I think the worst part for him used to be the nights when I was so wound up by a "finding" that I would wax on and on about so-and-so who I had never mentioned in all the years of our married life together, but now we just HAD to have them over for dinner. I loved the memories that came pouring out of something so simple as seeing an old photo posted of me wearing a "Jungle Fever" t-shirt with bad hair and unkempt eyebrows. Ah. Those were the days!

When I was in college, I had many good friends. But there were two women who were my "besties." I lived in the Midwest and they both lived on the East Coast. I graduated before both of them, but we visited, called, and wrote to one another often. I started dating my husband and as time went on,  my two girlfriends and I grew apart. But still, I loved them and wanted to honor our friendship by having them stand up in my wedding. At the last minute, they canceled. More than 11 years went by without my speaking to them. It haunted me. I had come up with many theories and explanations. I had come up with the "If I ever see them again, this is what I'm going to say" speech. And then, two years ago, I saw I had a friend request.

There, silently, sat a picture of my old friend, now in L.A., requesting I accept her friendship. I did. Breathlessly. Right after that, I looked up my other beloved friend and saw that her current city was none other than Chicago, IL. I sent her a message and a friendship request. She and I met for a tearful lunch where I met her beautiful son and we made amends. Not that long after, I flew out to L.A. for a tearful dinner, my first martini ever, and an explanation that helped to heal an old, deep wound.

My college reunion is coming up. There is no way I would have ever even remotely considered attending if not for these two Facebook connections. You'd think after marriage, two dogs, and four kids that the heart gets tougher. You don't give the old hurts a second thought. You don't look back. And maybe, for some, that's true. But for me, Facebook has given me the opportunity to both look backwards and surge forward. And for that, I am very grateful.

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