On Facebook, all history is recent.

Pam made an interesting remark on my Facebook friendswhoring post:

It amazes me how the internet has really opened up “history”. I found my best friend from grade 5/6 on a site called the Names Database, and just recently a guy I was friends with from age 8 to 12 found me on Facebook. It’s fun to catch up with these people.

I started to write a comment there but I decided to make it a post instead:

You know, it’s funny, I was humming and hawing over that last night. One reason I had stayed away from Facebook until now is that I didn’t particularly want to reconnect to my distant past. I have no interest in defining myself by my high school or hometown or even my first half-finished degree, and Facebook struck me as a particularly backward-looking thing in that regard, which is one of the reasons I put off using it for so long.

Or, at least, the model of friendships that Facebook seems designed around doesn’t seem to match my own experience.

I’ve found a couple people to catch up with but I already knew I wanted to catch up with them. Most of the people from that era I’m just really not interested in finding again, and there were even a couple of people who I saw looking through city and school groups where I realized I was happier having good memories of people from decades before than having the ability to contact them now.

I certainly like the idea of Facebook, especially for keeping in touch with people I’ve only recently drifted away from a bit and who don’t keep their own diary-style blogs. But I apparently have some constructions in my head about how relationships go — personal and professional spheres, distant memory vs. simply losing touch, and so on — that the site either doesn’t account for or explicitly does away with.

But perhaps that’s for the best — after all, why wouldn’t I be in touch with those people? It’s clearly a problem of clinging attachment, although I can’t quite put my finger on what I’m clinging to. Perhaps getting in touch with people is a kind of practice; perhaps I’ve justified not keeping in touch by constructing an experience in which my “current” me began somewhere in Montreal, and it’s not so much that I don’t want to get in touch as it is that reconnecting with people will mean admitting that that construction is simply that.

If nothing else at least I’ve got the virtual land claim. It will be interesting to see how much I end up using LinkedIn (where I’ve got a professional-only network of 54 connections, but where I never really do anything but add connections — although that’s probably at least partly because I’m heading into a new “network-building” stage right now anyhow) vs. how much I use Facebook.

2 responses to “On Facebook, all history is recent.”

  1. The sad fact is that Facebook isn’t for people like you and me. While we can use it to find old acquaintances, it’s real strength and value is in allowing kids who are going to school now to remain in contact after they’ve left–as opposed to falling out of touch, like we (older generations) tend to do.