My Beloved calls me an exhibitionist. Darling Daughter thinks I’m a creeper. To College Boy I am invisible. (Of course I am; he has 1,063 “friends.”) On Facebook, I can be all of those things--or none of them.
Like the old supermarket tabloid says, “Enquiring minds want to know.” Facebook opens up that age-old, class reunion question, “Whatever happened to…?” and connects us to past lives that were gathering dust in old photo albums and yearbooks up in the attic. Sure, there may be a good reason you didn’t stay in touch with HIM (or HER). Broken heart. Embarrassing mortification. Indifference. Mostly, though, it’s just that we grew up, got on with our lives, met tons of other people, and became immersed in our careers, families, whatever. It’s not humanly possible to keep in touch with every single person we meet. At some point I accepted that folks come into our lives for a period of time—sometimes for an obvious reason, sometimes not—and then we go our separate directions. Occasionally that’s by agreement but, more often than not, it’s just the rhythm of life. We get busy. We move away. We forget birthdays. We have babies. We lose phone numbers. We lose ourselves.
We lose sight of the fact that just as we are not the same person we were in high school, or college, or in our first job, or even ten years ago (or even a year ago, if we are determined to learn and grow), neither are the folks from our past. We cannot know what’s happened over the years—the joys, the disappointments, the calls to faith, the failures, the awards, the illnesses, the healings, the resentments, the forgiveness—the myriad experiences that define a life.
When we connect via Facebook, we may learn some of that or none of that. We meet people where they are today in ways we were not capable of before. We get a glimpse of their lives through pictures of their kids or a list of the books they’re reading. We find we are totally surprised at their career paths, or that there is complete symmetry in where they’ve found themselves.
Sure, we see the person they want us to see and vice versa. We can self-edit to present whatever we want. With most of the folks I converse with regularly on Facebook, I sense an authenticity that I dare say most of us may not have had back in junior high. For how can we be authentic when we have no clue who we really are?
Our Facebook—and by “our” I mean the Facebook of grownups (not those on my friend list who are the same age as Darling Daughter and College Boy), fills a middle life need (a need I didn’t even know I had) to reconnect. It’s not so much revisiting the past, because in my experience it has been anything but that. It is an openness to the present—we honor the fact that at some point our lives were touched by one another and we acknowledge each other as the person—the “friend”—that we are today.
Yes, I try not to post unflattering pictures of myself. There are times when I have edited my thoughts because I do not want to offend a friend, whether it’s a friend I haven’t seen for twenty years or one I talk to every day. Mostly though, I am comfortable putting myself out there warts and all. We don’t all agree. We are of different political parties and different faiths. We have divergent tastes in music and contentious rivalries in sports. We have opposing views on things like homosexuality, abortion, Sarah Palin, American Idol and the Kansas Jayhawks. But we are able to set differences aside and come together to share our parenting ups and downs, to pray for someone who is ill, to discuss the great book we’ve both read, to learn of jobs lost or jobs found, to celebrate the birth of a child, to share our love of dogs, cats and horses.
Thanks to Facebook, I have found a “sister” in Alaska, a soul mate in Ohio, a Novaria in France and, this morning, one of my favorite people ever surfaced from Ireland. (I also know that I will never beat my sisters-in-law in the Facebook game Bejeweled.) Every day there is something new to learn about someone and about myself. Exhbitionist? Maybe, just a little. Creeper? Only when I'm checking up on my kids. Invisible? Not for long because it's time to update my status!