I adore Facebook. In the “real me” Facebook world, I have about 200 friends, reflecting all different phases of my life, from junior high school on up. I enjoy watching their lives unfold. I go on their travels with them, see their kids grow up (some of whom friend me themselves), see their homes through their eyes, and get insight into their values and political beliefs. It’s like reading a great novel. Sometimes, I learn useful things from them, or they learn useful things from me.
If I have important information to share, Facebook is the way to do it and they do the same. For example, for my most recent high school reunion (which took place a few years ago), the reunion committee didn’t even bother with paper invitations. Instead, they did the whole thing on Facebook.
It was at this reunion that I was struck by something interesting — those high school classmates who I find most interesting and to whom I feel most close now were not my friends in high school. Some were just nodding acquaintances. The flip side is that the people with whom I spent the most time in high school aren’t people I would want anything to do with now. I enjoy following them on Facebook, but I do not consider them friends.
Much of this has to do with politics: my close friends from high school have all become hard-core progressives; my distant acquaintances from high school, the ones I value as Facebook friends, are all conservatives or libertarians. This doesn’t mark much of a shift from high school. The hard-core progressives were Democrats; the conservatives and libertarians were Republicans or libertarians. In other words, my high school classmates haven’t changed much, but I certainly have. My values have shifted profoundly.
All of which makes me wonder if I would have been less of a social outcast in high school if I’d figured out earlier that I am, by nature, conservative. My Democrat ideology was merely a shell, imposed from the outside by circumstances.
My thoughts are running along these lines today because I spent a lovely afternoon with my first best friend, whom I met when we both were 3. We drifted apart by the time we were 10, so much so that we had no contact whatsoever by high school. We weren’t hostile to each other. We functioned in entirely separate universes. Because our parents remained friendly, we’ve never entirely lost touch, but 2013 marks the first year we’ve been in contact since 1994.
She is an absolute delight (showing that I had good taste when I was 3). More than that, I discovered that she’s very good friends with one of those high school acquaintances whose friendship I’ve grown to value on Facebook. This guy and I haven’t spoken to each other face to face since 1979, but I hope one day to meet him — and I’m somehow not surprised to learn that those two friends of my dotage are themselves friends.