Richard posts about a friend who abandoned Facebook because he was uncomfortable with the idea of reconnecting with certain people from his past- particularly old girlfriends. His friend, who is in his twenties, also questioned the Twitter-like vibe that occurs when friends who transcend life eras start firing off a cycle of cheeky notes for the connected world to read.
I think this raises a very interesting issue. To what extent do people over thirty (much less over forty or fifty) really want to open their current lives up to their past? In theory, I would love to reconnect with some old friends. In practice, however, I am a poor correspondent who has lost touch with virtually all of my high school, college and graduate school friends. It’s one thing to post away out here in the giant ocean that is the blogosphere. Few of my old friends swim in that ocean. I get occasional emails from people I have lost touch with, but that’s about it. It’s another thing altogether to place a billboard on the virtual street where my old friends drive saying “this way to Kent Newsome’s current life.”
With Facebook and, even more so for grownups, LinkedIn, the whole purpose of joining is to make connections with old and new friends. The total number of my high school and college friends who have Facebook accounts is zero. Nada. Zilch. So being on Facebook or visiting MySpace is like wandering through my kids’ rooms when their friends are over: it’s chaotic, I don’t really understand what they’re doing, but I can tell they are having fun. On the other hand, LinkedIn is like a stroll through my old neighborhoods. I got an email from a college friend within minutes of signing up at LinkedIn the other night. And I found teens, if not a hundred or so, college and graduate school classmates who I can reach out to. If I want to.
It’s hard to explain, but being in Facebook and LinkedIn seems materially more exposed than merely posting away on a blog. It’s like that dream where you realize you are back in some class, with no clothes on. With nowhere to hide.
I have a feeling that most people in the mainstream who are now just starting to generate and publish (however inadvertently) things on the net, don’t really get the potential permanence of it.
Mix Facebook or MySpace with the fearlessness and the ephemeral nature of youth, and you can end up with a permanent online record that loses its swagger with the passage of time.
And even if your life appears boring, once you put it out there for the connected world to see, don’t you lose control of it a little?
My current life is one of blissful, family based routine- the sort of thing I would have found unimaginable at twenty. And the sort of thing I find perfectly wonderful in my forties. I am much less social, online and off, than I was when I was younger. So while I am interested in catching up with old friends, there is something a little scary about these social networking applications.
I guess I just feel more comfortable out here in the wilderness.