Saturday, September 12, 2015

Meeting old friends for the first time: Making "real" friends on Facebook

I have always been skeptical of the ubiquity of Social Media (especially Facebook) and its tendency to supplant the need for real, human interaction. This weekend radically and irreversibly shifted my view of how Social Media can impact our real, physical lives.

Over the last several months, Birdy has encouraged me to reach out to friends from the past with whom I had lost contact. I have found great comfort in reconnecting with friends I have not seen or heard from in as many as twenty years. In finding and rekindling these old friendships, I have filled in many gaps in my memory and rediscovered lost parts of who I was, who I am. Since beginning this process, I have had the distinct pleasure of introducing Birdy to four of the people from my teenage years that played a major role in forming the man I have become.    

This weekend, Birdy and I flew down to California and, among other activities, had occasion to meet my new/old friend Pete. He had popped up on Facebook a few months ago because we had fifteen or so friends in common. His name and his face were somewhat familiar, but I couldn’t place him. What the heck, I sent him a friend request. Within a few minutes he accepted and sent me a message:

This went back and forth for about half an hour and we still could not piece it together. We did, however, begin to make a connection. As we shared the details of where life had taken us in the two decades since the time we didn’t remember going to high school (Leigh High School in San Jose, CA) together, the seeds of a new friendship began taking root. We cheered for each other's successes and shared the lament from our tales of woe.

Herein lies what had been my chief complaint with Social Media: I am not actually “friends” with the vast majority of people who are my friends on Facebook. Many were friends in high school and we got along just fine, but we are all grown up and our lives have gone in a million different directions. We've lost touch and we now share a pseudo-friendship through each others' social media highlight reel. 

This was the first time in which I had added a friend on Facebook from high school with whom I exchanged direct messages and had a “real” conversation...and he was not even my friend to begin with. And yet, since beginning this correspondence, I have found someone with whom I share a great many interests AND get along with AND find interesting. 

As it happened, Birdy and I were travelling to California this weekend and had the privilege to meet again, for the first time, my friend Pete. Seeing him in person did nothing to refresh my memory to recall any event, circumstance, class, dance, assembly or party that we attended together. He and I went to the same middle school and high school during the same years and were friends with dozens of people in common and neither of us could remember the other. But from the minute we sat down for a drink, it felt like we had been friends the whole time.  

From Left to Right: Pete, Birdy and Myko at Lefty O'doul's in SF

So, the fact that Facebook was responsible for bringing together, again, two people who were otherwise perfect strangers has made me re-estimate the power and the value of Social Media. I should mention that Birdy and I met on