Face(book)ing the Past

There’s someone on Facebook, and I won’t name names so please let’s nobody else do it either, who won’t accept my friend request. I’ll admit I’m a little hurt, and slightly perplexed, because we were very close in high school and even in college. But then we drifted apart in the way that life happens, and we haven’t spoken in about 15 years. But isn’t that what Facebook is for, at least in part? Reconnecting with people you haven’t seen in years? I’d almost wish there was a “go away, they don’t want to hear from you, and here’s why” response, so that I could at least feel… I don’t know, closure? Satisfaction? Vindication? Then again, there are a few folks I wouldn’t accept friend requests from on a bet, and I have winnowed my own friends list more than once and even targeted a couple people specifically for deletion, so I guess I live in a glass house on this one.

I’ll admit I’m still ambivalent and unsure about Facebook, even though I use it practically every day and have for the better part of a decade now. I was one of the earlier adopters, although I do not say that with any sense of pride. I was on Facebook before there were games or apps, but not by much, and I was one of the people who nearly destroyed Facebook by flooding your feed with endless invitations to games you will never want to play. Yes, I was that guy, and I’m sorry, although in my defense I never played Farmville (although not for lack of invitations, thank you, Mom).

But despite all of that, having completely abandoned the games on Facebook (that’s what smartphones are for) I’ve discovered that it still has its appeal. I’ve connected or reconnected with dozens of people from my past, mostly from high school and college, and mostly people I either never had a relationship with or (perversely) had a very poor relationship with. I have since gone on to develop at least a passing acquaintance with many of them, and even warm online friendships with some of them. It has provided a sense of growth and even soothed some of the old bitterness, taken some of the sting out of the past. It’s also enriched and livened up the present, connected me to or connected me with friends and family, and given me wonderful opportunities to promote crazy ideas and wild ventures.

But then there’s the truly dark side of Facebook: there are people out there, and again I’m not going to name names, who hold materials that were never meant to see the light of day. Old photos and even video that should have stayed buried. The human mind has the capacity for forgetfulness for a reason, and all media fades. This is the true and natural way of things, and dragging the mullet back into the light is just dirty poker. Making baby pictures and bad acting available for public consumption should be banned by the Geneva Convention. You know who you are.