Friday, March 13, 2009

Adventures in Facebooking

The Feb. 22, 2009 issue of Time magazine had an interesting article about Facebook.  The article was entitled: Facebook is for Old People.   It was one of those little pity articles that Timemagazine is good for.  Light fare, nothing too hard to handle.  The premise for the article is this: any one over the age of 30 is a perfect fit for Facebook because, well, we feel sentimental about the past, "we're not cool and we don't care," and my personal favorite "we don't udnerstand Twitter," which is true at least for this humble blogger.  Full disclosure, though, I do have a Twitter account, but I'm trying to figure out what the purpose of said account is, but that is neither here nor there.  This is a blogpost about Facebook and what it has done to me the last week.  

The last few days have been a strange, weird time for me. I don't necessarily mean in the surrealistic kind of way, or even the had-too-much-caffine of kind way, no its been I've-reconnected-with-people-I-haven't-seen-in-23-years kind of way, and its all Facebook's fault. 

 From the middle of first grade to the middle of sixth grade, I went to Woodside Elementary School in Peekskill, NY; roughly from 1981-1986.  In 1986 my family and I moved away to Maryland.  

As usually happens, when one moves away, after promising to keep in touch and stay friends for ever, I fell out of contact with pretty much everybody from my elementary school classes.  I did keep in contact, somewhat with one kid: Brian.  In actuality, my mom and Brian's mom, Pat, kept in contact and by default I was able to keep up with Brian and some of the other kids that we kind of ran with, but ever that became more difficult.  And then there was Facebook.

I set up my Facebook account about two years ago, I think.  It was at the beginning of the "social network' craze.  I got involved with Myspace shortly before that time.  I set up my Facebook account because for an assignment for one of my classes.  I set up quickly in the class and sort of forgot about it, but I eventually became disenchanted with Myspace because it was hard work trying to find friends mainly because I didn't necessarily know their handles.  Facebook was easier because I could just type in a name and if they were there I'd find them.  I also got tired of the teeny-bop-esqueness of Myspace: flashing pages, music on every page, a virtual (and I mean the both literally and figuratively) cyber-cacophony.  I eventually started going to Facebook more and more.  Their applications were more fun and I enjoyed the simple screen interface they had.  In short, it just kind made me feel better.  I didn't have visual, or auditory overload.  

I started finding people I knew.  At first it was people I was going to school with adn then I started to find people I knew from other places.  Before long, I started having almost a cyber-web of friendships.  I made one rule for myself when it came to friends on Facebook: "I'd add them if I knew them personally; that is, if I'd broken bread with them or had spent time with them in "real life" and liked them in person, then I'd be okay with them being my "friend" via facebook.  I have, at present, 210 friends.  This to me is shocking, I didn't think I knew that many people.  Of those 210, 206 are people I have actually broken bread with, had a meal, or spent time with at some point or another.  The four that are not in the "broken bread" category, are people that I have become friendly with through their blogs and online diaries.  

Eventually, I added Brian to my list and was able to reconnect with him.  He's probably my oldest friend.  I met him in first or second grade and we started walking home together after school after mom and I bumped into he and his mom as they were walking out of a bakery that my mom and I were walking into.  We started going to my house after school because my father was usually there (he worked from home) so there would be someone to keep tabs on us after school.  

After finding Brian, I eventually found Andy.  Andy, now known as Andrew, was another good friend of mine from elementary school.  We hung out a lot.  He was one of those kids that had the amazing ability to draw.  I mean he was (and still is) a dynamite artist.  I was in awe of him.  He had a gift, let me tell you.

So, I had two buddies from elementary school on my list.  That's cool, we chatted from time to time and would leave a message on the other's "wall," etc, etc.  

Then came this past Monday or Tuesday.  

Another guy I knew from elementary school Sean K. posted some class pictures.  You know the pictures I'm talking about: school picture day, each person in the class has their mugshot/portrait taken and then the class is herded over to some benches, posed, and a picture snapped.  Even at the tender age of eight or nine, in the back of your mind you're hoping against hope that you will be able to make that picture disappear.  Invariably that picture resurfaces, usually when you're digging through an old box and suddenly, boop!  There is your third grade self, awkward as hell, smiling up at you.  It is the very definition of what I like to call a Carpe Diem moment (I coined after seeing Dead Poets' Society, the scene Williams takes his students into the trophy room and makes them look closely at the class pictures in the display cases... just kind of a creepy scene to me). 

Sean K. wasn't on my friends list, but he had tagged Brian and Andy in the picture.  Their tagging showed up on my Facebook page.  I clicked on the pictures and saw my elementary school self smiling at my 35 year old self.  I had a Carpe Diem moment.  I 'friended" Sean and we started chatting, getting caught up, you know, the usual.  

Suddenly, though, something strange and unique started to happen.  Other people from that picture started to tag their names to it, or they were tagged to it by someone else.  Those that had Facebook profiles showed up with links to their profiles.  I had, in matter of 24 to 36 hours reconnected with a goodly portion of my elementary school class circa 1981-1986.  It was a bit of a shock to see the adult versions of the little gap-toothed kids that had stared at me from the picture for lo these many years.  

I don't know what will happen with this, probably nothing.  We all have lives now, and are far removed those pictures and those days.  It makes me wince a bit to think that 23 years has passed since that last class picture that I was a part of was taken.  Twenty-three years... Reagan was still in the White House, A.I.D.S. was just starting to scare the hell out of every one, we knew who are enemies were, they were across the Atlantic, they were the Russians.  The Mets were on their way to win the World Series and this was the Burger King ad campaing:

As a matter of fact, Sean M., someone else I'd refound this week, gave me a T-shirt as a birthday present that said 'I'm not the Herb you're looking for."  It was a pretty cool shirt.

There is one really big part to this that I forgot to mention.  I am a librarian.  And I can honestly trace my chosen career path to the library at Woodside Elementary School.  And I can further trace the zenith of my chosen career path to the librarian in particular.  I don't remember her name, but I'm sure if I ask enough of my former classmates, one of them may remember her name and it will be great day for me, because I need to thank her, sadly, for all I know she has passed away.  I mean it was 23 years ago. I have been asked many a-time why I decided to become a librarian.  The story is very simple and I would tell it something like this: the librarian at Woodside had hooks for hands, she had two prothstethis hooks where her hands should of been.  I found that fascinating and I remember one day watching her stamp books with a rubber stamp clutched between the hooks of her hand and I remember distinctly thinking to myself "if she can do that, so can I." 

The last few years, though, I started to think that maybe it was a made up memory or an amalgamation of memories, or even just a wishful thought memory.  In short, I was starting to doubt what I thought I had known.  It turns out I was right and the memory is sound, though, as I talked to Sean K. about it he remembers her only having one hook instead of two.  That's not a big deal.  The fact that the memory I had was, to a degree, correct made me feel very good.  

As I reconnected with my former classmates, I got to talking one of the "twins."  There was a set of twins that I went to school with at Woodside: KC and Missy.  I was talking with KC and I asked her, too, about the librarian.  I had already gotten confirmation from Sean K. about her, but I just needed a little bit more.  So I aked KC and she agreed with me that there was a librarian that had a hook (or hooks) for hands.  I told simply that it was because of her, the librarian, that I had chosen my career path.  It turns out that the librarian had a similar affect on her, too.  KC isn't in the library business, no she does something more important than librarianship.  She works for a company that fabricates and fits patients with artificial limbs and backbraces...

About two years ago, I got involved with a documentary series, called the Up! Series, or the 7 Up series.The series as done by BBC television.  It's premise was simple: the documentarians decided to follow a group of children, starting at the age of seven, and would check up on them every seven years.  The first one was at age seven, the next at 14, 21, 28, etc.  The last one made was, I think, 42, but their might have been a 49.  The thesis, if you will, of the documentary was this: 'give me the "boy" of seven and I will show the "man."  Meaning, by seven we have been programmed to be who we are going to be.  And it was kind of interesting to see this played out through the videos.  What does this have to do with this suddenly bloated blog post?  I don't know, lets see: I became a librarian, KC works with people who need artificial limbs because we were influenced by a librarian.  Andy, the artist in elementary school became an artist as an adult and also has illustrated books.  Sean M. who was a newspaper boy in school went on to work in the newspaper business.  I'm sure if I dug down deep enough I'd be able to make other connections with my class then and what they do now.  

Like I said, this has been a very intersting week.  I've learned alot and I've reconnected with a past that was hazy at best, but is now very bright and full colored.  And for that, I am very thankful, and yes, somewhat flabbergasted.  In short, its been, to use a common phrase "cool' to get reconnected with a distant, faded past.  Yeah, it has.  And as much as I hate to say it, I mean it: "God bless Facebook."  

There, I said it.