Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Facebook Taketh Away (Your Time) but it Also Giveth (Your Old Friends Back)

It’s 10 PM on a Saturday night. I’m a young twenty-something woman. I should be out partying with my friends. Instead, I’m at home, glued to Facebook trading insults with an old high school friend whose attempts to swear at me in German using Babel Fish Translator has left him with the unfortunate mistranslation of calling me a donkey instead of a, well, you know.

As I sat there laughing to no one but my computer screen, I couldn’t help but reflect on what a miracle this scene was for me. You might ask yourself why trading German insults back and forth between computers would be considered a miraculous event, but to me it represented how social networking sites like Facebook have helped people reconnect with old friends they’ve lost touch with over the years.

I smiled back at my computer screen and felt a weight lift from my heart. It was as if the past 8 years of not speaking to this friend had just been wiped clean and we were back in high school again, listening to the radio, singing country songs together in his blue Dodge Neon. This moment would have never happened had it not been for Facebook.

I also just recently reconnected with another old friend with whom I had known since 5th grade, but after high school, we just somehow, for no reason in particular, lost touch with each other. When she found me on Facebook, I was joyous. That first message I received from her sent a flood of memories through me of all the good times I spent at her house as a teenager: the haunted housing in October, the quoting lines from Wayne’s World over and over again, the dressing up as Wayne and Garth for Halloween, the gathering for pictures in her front yard before the Homecoming dance. And suddenly, in an instant, we were trading messages back and forth and making plans for a time when we could get together in the near future.

In addition to reconnecting with old friends, Facebook has managed to help keep me from losing touch with my current ones, too. My husband and I have a very close friend of ours who recently graduated from medical school. Her crazy busy schedule, in addition to living 45 minutes from each other, almost led us to drifting apart. But because of Facebook, we’re getting together on a somewhat regular basis now, catching up over tapas and sangria.

There’s no doubt that these sites can consume a very large amount of your time if you’re not careful (and I’ll be the first to admit that I spend way more time on FB than I should), but the dividends can often be much greater than the investment. Through this social networking site, I have actually found that my husband and I are getting together with friends and going out more than we ever used to. We’re making more friends, too, because the people we meet in passing now are no longer people we’ll never see again, but people we can connect with, get to know, and possibly form a new friendship with all because we found them on Facebook.

So yes, please do exercise caution when using social networking sites as we are always warned by the horror stories in the media. But also be open to the possibility that they can change your life for the better. When adulthood sneaks up on us, we somehow let friendships fall by the wayside due to location changes, developing careers, and the formation of marriages and families. What Facebook does is, for a few minutes a day, reminds us that there are people in our lives, outside those we live with, who are important to us too. It keeps us from letting a bucket’s slow leak become empty and dry, as I’m sure has happened to many of our friendships over the years.

So now the question begs, if you’re one of the five people left who has yet to sign up for a social networking site, then I ask you: what are you waiting for? You just might reconnect with someone from your past who’s been in your thoughts over the years but never had the courage to try to contact. Let today be the start of a new journey for those friendships you let slip through your fingers.

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