Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Thing About Facebook

My name is Ilina, and I'm a Facebookaholic.

I dream in status updates and live streams. I only recognize people by their avatars. I find my thumb unconsciously rolling the trackball on my Curve to read updates on the Facebook for Blackberry application that I downloaded, natch. I pore over photos and links and silly videos. I join causes and live chat and play Pathwords (damn you, Will, for hooking me!).

What really has me a bit freaked out is this whole connecting with long lost friends. Yeah, shut your pie hole, folks. I know that's precisely the point. It has me feeling slightly out of sorts, like I live in a parallel universe or something. I am a time traveler and don't recall a thing about the long, strange trip I took.

A bit of background, now keep up. My parents split up. I went to boarding school (my choice, not theirs). I changed schools. I changed schools again. All in all, I went to three high schools in four years (clearly couch fodder but seemed perfectly normal at the time). My parents moved out of my home town. I went to college. I moved to the midwest. I went to graduate school. I visited my home town precisely three times in 20 years, most recently just about three years ago.

You see, many of the people I have been reconnecting with on Facebook were boys and girls when I saw them last. Prepubescent. Innocent. Gawky. I myself was a tiny 4'8 peanut with scraggly hair and geeky tendencies. No self esteem, little confidence, lots of cluelessness. My boobs had not reached their full 32 DD. I shook like a spasming pork butt on the flexed arm hang and huffed and puffed my way around the track for the 600 yard dash (dash, my ass!). I was picked last in gym (no wonder) and faced the evil terror of Mr. Benfer, whose mother terrorized me in math class. I tell you, the Benfer family did not get Christmas goodies from this gal. Where was I? Oh, I was an 82 pound nothing with no athletic prowess, mutated social skills, and a nervous giggle, but I could conjugate the hell out of some verbs in Mrs. Robinson's English class.

Now here I am. A woman of 40. Wife. Mother. Business owner. Wannabe writer. Boobs reduced to a perfectly perky and pleasant 32 B. Yet that geeky little girl still shudders inside me and is about one rope climb away from wetting her pants. I thought I shed her since I lost track of all the people who knew her in the flesh rather than in the stories that I tell. And so she is real again. Watching from the inside out, unaccustomed to her usual view of outside looking in.

The boys and girls I knew then are men and women now. They shave. They're bald. They're fat. They're skinny. They make mortgage payments. They don't have a curfew. They've had sex...with mulitiple partners! They're parents, professsionals. They are on the cusp of a midlife crisis, astonishing considering they were on the edge of preteen angst last I saw them! Some moved to the tropics, some stayed in town. Now, they, and I, are people with a past. When we knew each other before we were people with a future.

I rediscovered the kids who came to my house to celebrate my 13th birthday. I reconnected with the guy I shared my music stand with in band (trombone, in case you were wondering). I found, and have been found by, crushes and heartbreakers and jerks. Instead of being in the cast of their tales, I am a voyeur, playing catch up to a life that went on without me.

I love hearing from these old friends and hope to weave them back into my life. There are so many that I've thought of fondly over the years and wondered how to get back in touch without it seeming creepy or stalkery. Facebook has not opened the proverbial Pandora's Box; it has opened doors, and windows in which I can catch a glimpse of my former self and what I've become. What we've become.

There is something special about Facebook. It is a warming, comforting feeling to get a friend request from someone long lost who touched me and shaped me. It's nice to know that I came across their radar, as they came across mine many, many times. And I would be lying if I didn't say I admit to overt joy when the I see the mean girls who aged very, very poorly (not naming names, of course).

So I haven't hit rock bottom yet. I'm going to keep bellying up to the Facebook bar. Now that we're all old enough to drink legally, I do hope my friends will join me.
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Anonymous said...

We talked quite a bit about Facebook and this same kind of weirdness while recording the Push My Follow podcast last night (not out yet, I'll tweet when it's available!) I get those same queasy feelings. I'm trying to use my grown-up brain and not my adolescent emotions, but it sometimes feels like my long buried past is rising the the surface and making me want to throw up!

Magpie said...

So curious. I haven't had that experience at all. I rarely find people on Facebook that I'd been in high school with - there are a few, but not many. Most of my Facebook peeps are blog friends - all whole different, rather more current universe.

Anonymous said...

Well said. I know exactly what you mean.

The internet has shrunk my world, expanded my world and brought my past all smack back to me.

Caroline said...

Did you hear about my dream? Where I had a party and every single one of my FB friends were there? It was the craziest reunion and seemed so real at the time. I totally understand the strange experience of catching up with ppl you knew lifetimes ago. I wonder often if FB forces friendships that should have been left behind? Or if its a good thing to re-up and reconnect? FB forces decisions to be made whether you will "friend" someone or not. Its crazy stuff.

Anonymous said...

Your are not a wannabe writer. They way you craft your words makes you a better writer than some of the more published and accomplished writers out there.

Also, I'm with you on the facebook. it's even better when people find you because it means that you've mde an impression in their lives.

Arwen said...

The mean girls thing is what gets me. I moved away from my home town for one year and went from being a geek to being REALLY popular and experienced both sides of the mean girl coin and then the 'year of popularity' rival friends me on FB and the MG in college (the school on had 300 people but she managed to sleep with most of them, not based on attraction but on someone else mentioning they thought the person was hot - we tested this hypothesis) friends me and it is just so weird. (nice run on sentence)...
so weird.
And then there is the question: Should I friend the boy whose heart I broke in high school? It's been 20 years, maybe he's over it by now.
And then there is the woman I thought was my friend who won't friend me (crushing).
Oh , the drama, time for some tension tamer tea...oh wait, it's only FB... phew.

Anonymous said...

So glad to know I am not alone on this Facebook thing! I was hesitant to hit publish on this post.

CroutonBoy said...

That's it...I'm de-friending you. I can't be connected to someone who was that big of a loser growing up.

(note I said "connected to," as I can't defriend myself)

Ilina said...

Crouton Boy, I think we blossomed late. Those kids who had their shit together are weathered and leathered now. Fist bump, my friend.

You cannot defriend me. I know too much.

Gretchen said...

I find it interesting what kind of impressions I made on people in private and high school, as well as, college. The other day a dude I went to high school with said we didn't hang out much because I was too cool and preppie...what? Why was my first instinct to be offended? I never viewed myself as cool and I tried my best not to be preppie or snobby... since everyone in my immediate family had and still has snob blood running through their veins. The definition of cool is different to everyone.. duh.. but I thought very little of myself in high school and was confused to why the 'cool' girls were so mean to me. And after trying ignore and dodging the friend suggestions of the 2 chicks who made it their mission in hs to make my life a living hell... I've realized... now at 35 years of age... those girls were so deeply jealous of me that they brutally ruined my high school years. So sorry, I was pretty, smart, athletic, nice, and had a fun rebellious streak. I'm not bitter anymore... just wish sometimes that I could have tapped into my inner bitch back in high school. I still can't find it! But I am soooo enjoying the comments from 10+ dudes on Facebook that post.."Wow, Gretchen, you look just as hot as you did back in school." Ha-Ha and LOL! (I knew she was in there somewhere.)

Anonymous said...

Wait, are you showing your boobs on facebook? They kind of don't allow that... at least not breast feeding ones.

I love how you just toss out boob size (is that a term?) so easily!

Facebook is an interesting place. I'm told I'm much more handsome in person than in my avatar. Most women want me to lose the red hat. hahahahahaha

Anonymous said...

Oh dadshouse, boob size doesn't matter. Not like it's evident when you meet someone anyway. Most guys don't even know what all those numbers and letters mean. Somehow I have a hunch that you do. ha ha

landismom said...

I was really excited last night, because Facebook sent me an email saying they'd finally set up a network for my place of employment. It's geeky, I know.

Angel said...

At first, I was speechless. Speechless for a few reasons. One, you said the exact same things about an exact recent Facebook trip down memory lane that I experienced only you said them so much better, as always. Two, it is like we lived similar lives, moving, feeling awkward and gawky and nonathletic and more and then finding old pals from that stage in our lives and not being exactly sure what to do with it. And three, that you are now addicted to F/B, like me. I am on it constantly.

Great post... and in perfect time... I just wrote a post last week about this subject:)

Angel said...

I should also mention that the post I wrote was because of my reconnection with high school friends on Facebook, but I didn't mention that in the post:)

Anyway, I really loved this post of yours. I love how you write.

Anonymous said...

I turned my wife on to Facebook a few months ago and she is out of control. She will join you at weekly meetings. I will have to search you out.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm TOTALLY with you. Facebook has completely rocked my world this past month -- like in a Potentially Life Changing kind of way.

This was a beautiful post, btw -- dang, you're such a good writer. FB should hire you just for the testimonials!

And how weird that my word verification is "crowfu" after my Eating Crow post today ...