Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Facebook says, "We may be through with the Past...

...but the Past is going to 'friend' you every chance it gets."

In the turnings and innings and outings of time, we evolve ourselves. Or perhaps a better term might be "escape".

Time was, remaining close to the original tribe was the rule and not the exception. Those who ventured out returned either broken, haunted, or not at all, so it was best to stay within the confines of the clan, no matter how torturous their company might be.

As new worlds were discovered, oceans and forests were cleared of sea monsters and werewolves, so we took the opportunity to experiment with new lives outside of the families and communities that shaped us. The Industrial Revolution steamed us into the 20th century and we migrated from rural landscapes to soot-coated cities, trading in the familiar for the uncharted. The Interstate system of the Mid-Century gave us ease to travel away from our homes, to new cities, east and west, in the hopes of finding something better, brighter.

With each step on the road to the New, we molt our former selves, reborn. We have grown ashamed of our gawky, painful youths - traveling and living away from our points of origin means a second, third or even fourth bite at the apple. No one knows us in these foreign lands. We could be anyone. Anybody. Mistakes are erased, poor choices are flung to the winds. Who knows what untapped potential lies within?

But, it's an illusion, isn't it?

Not the change itself...the lust for it.

In his book Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser points out the interstate oasis and the presence of Olive Garden or Applebee's or McDonald's at every exit. While he points out the poor food quality, he also draws a conclusion as to why we tolerate and even welcome these second rate culture bombs as they arrive on the horizon: Familiarity. Regardless of our love/hate/indifference over the actual food, it is known to us.

There is palpable tension between a search for the New and a longing for the Old. We blow in to an unknown land and, after the exhilaration has worn off, we spend busy ourselves nesting, normalizing our surroundings. If this includes making friends, we configure our new relationships in the form of old ones: He reminds me of my brother, She takes the place of my best friend from grade school. In our new lives, we replicate the rituals and ideals of the old tribes. This is natural and always in motion. We tick-tock from blazing a new path to recreating the social circles to which we are accustomed.

This is not to say that personal mutations and evolutions are impossible. They most certainly are. However, we seem driven to perpetuate a climate that brings us back to our origins, time after bloody time.

I'm sure Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, didn't have this in mind when he created his software. It's just a networking site, right?


It is a geyser of our former selves.

At first, tap tap, we open an account and the first of our 20 closest friends arrive at our virtual doorsteps, all with flowers and casseroles, it seems, ready to welcome us into the universe of cyber connection.

And then...

When I left my home at 18, I had certain hopes for escape. I was going to school in a far off land, and the idea that I would see any of my former classmates again was sort of a distant notion. I AM NEW HERE. I can now recreate my life in a way that like and there is nothing to stop me.

Illusion. Self deception.

All my youthful errors, botched relationship efforts and out and out blunders, were merely tucked away. Hidden from sight.

But now, thanks to my somewhat loose criteria for accepting friend requests, old flames, one night stands, broken friendships, are rising up to meet me at the crossroads, challenging even my own personal mythologies about my past.

Are any of the stories I tell about my childhood true? Who was I to these people? Why do they keep friending me? What do they know? Have I unwittingly lied about them? Heavens, the stuff that's on my Facebook page must be totally offensive to them.

Hook up with a guy at a bar two weeks ago? He will find you on Facebook.
Girl you tortured in High School? She will find you on Facebook.

After all my recreations, adaptations, and transformations, this is my reckoning.

Facebook beckons me to stand and be counted for my past, even if the friending is a casual "Hey, how ya doin'?" Status updates, photo and profile changes, remind me that these players exist - a component of my formation as a human being, regardless of whether I have left them behind.

I'm curious about them, so I'll probably continue to accept whatever requests come my way...I feel compelled to return to my Old Self and show my New Self the engine room.


joe g said...

As one of your newer FB friends I feel a little strange saying this but: yeah, you're right. Every time I accept a friend request from an old high school classmate I can't help but think,"you know, there's a reason this person and I have not been in touch for 25 years...and I don't think anything has changed. Why am I doing this?"

And certainly there's people I no longer involve in my life from 10-15 years ago, and generally for darn good why are they my "friends" on FB?

And what now would be the ramification of de-friending these people? Would it open up old wounds we're both ignoring? Would it catch them by surprise and invite some uncomfortable conversation about why we drifted apart in the first place? Or will it simply go unnoticed/unacknowledged, the way the original mini-diaspora did?

reshazi: short for "Reshaped Nazi," a WWII German soldier who has undergone extensive body modifications, possibly in order to confront Indiana Jones in a future sequel.

Don Hall said...

My realization of this hit me when I noticed that so many of my old high school friends and college friends are unabashedly Born Again Evangelical Christians - they FB me and realize that I am damned to Hell for Eternity.

Only slightly less discomfiting is the fact that most of them are Hardcore GWBush fans and unapologetic NeoCons.

I know now that I would have hated the 1980's ME.

pilstr - (n.) American slang for that guy that can hook you up with any type of prescription painkiller or antidepressant.

joe g said...

I've found that, too, Don--I was never evangelical or right-wing myself, though it's been driven home to me rather forcefully that the town where I went to high school is a lot of both, especially the right-wing part, as I see more and more of these former high school folk...well, they're the rabid Dem-bashers who start FB groups like "Impeach Obama now!" three weeks before he takes office. That kind of obnoxious poop.

So glad to be back in touch with the old crowd...

My college sweetheart dumped me for being damned to Hell. No lie.

anicali - (n.) Ani DiFranco's "live in California" CD.

rebar said...

Call me cold-hearted, but I've been finding no problem hitting "ignore" with some folks that I know I had little to nothing in common with back in they day.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty that I have friended and it's been a blast - I've gotten more one-on-one info from these folks then I could ever dream of getting (and asorbing) for 10 minutes at a reunion with a band blaring and drinks being slammed.

My problem is the work thing.

I approved a couple - folks that get my sense of humor and that I've spent a little more time with - and now it seems like everyone in the company is "friending" me.

People I barely talk to or see like once a year at an event.

I know that my FB page would not be work approved.

It's full of swears and comments by a certain friend in LA who thinks referencing porn and/or his penis is a hoot. (Granted, he's usually right.)

While I thought I conquered the high school issue...I completely failed to realize that your WORKPLACE = High School.

I just realized it too late.

Now I'm wondering if I should "unfriend" all my work folk and send out an email that I'm scrubbing work out of FB...I work for a fairly conservative company...the last thing I need in this climate is for some stupid remark on FB to bring me any heat.

Worse, I realised it's making me edit myself.

Yesterday I wrote GO AWAY BABY FOUR EYES as a status...but edited myself from writing my original thought FUCK OFF BABY FOUR EYES.

Because of the work folk thing.

I HATE editing myself. Arg.

comic - since I just got out of a 3 hour mtg and this is an existing word? I'm giving myself the out.

joe g said...

>>>I completely failed to realize that your WORKPLACE = High School. >>>

Real life after college is pretty much high school, but the workplace even more so. Cliques, popularity contests, the pretty people getting preferential was a nice break from that but we're back in it to stay now.

paccent: Pacific coast accent.

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