I don't know about you, but I have been online since AOL was text based chat and Microsoft had a six page web site with a black & white photo of Bill Gates. I was there in the early days of AIM, Yahoo mail, Amazon, eBay, MySpace-- I probably have some AOL floppy discs some where. And, I even owned my own Internet Service Provider and hosting company (see my promo pic 1997)... but I was not prepared for Facebook.
What makes Facebook so different? I actually know some of these people-- and for a long time! Like how about 1964! Sure there are issues with social networking sites-- social "not working" sites if you use them on the job. Too bad for those that abuse them and do stupid things.
I guess that after all these years; all within the last few months, faces and profiles of my now, over 50, childhood friends are appearing at the rate of about one per day. I scoured Google, Yahoo and MySpace for years trying to look up some of these kids- now turned AARP members! Sure, a lot of them were on Classmates.com, but the Internet is supposed to be free, right? It's like the scoundrels on my Blackberry trying to get me to pay $6.95 per month to use an "app" for the Bible. Why would I do that when I can go to BibleGateway.org and get it for free?
Having used social networking sites to meet my wife, I am well aware of how easily emotions can get ahead of a real relationship. Without eye contact and nonverbal communication, you'd be amazed at what is missing from relationships. Even after chatting for a few months online-- and starting to feel like I knew her, when we met, it was almost like starting over. In fact, that is almost what we did. Even after dinner and a long walk along the Cape Cod Canal, it was still hard to manage the known, and balance it against these new emotions-- and awkwardness (on my part) that was present. The good news is that we chatted online that night, and were able to more easily express some things that we were feeling... our next date was much more exciting!
Herein lies the miracle of Facebook. Some of these folks I have known since I was four or five. We spent years together in a fairly small town with a graduating class of 224. I saw them at sporting events, school plays, sat next to them in class, saw them smoking cigarettes in the Boy's room, and bumped into them at Cub Scouts, grocery shopping, Little League and the movies. We have history-- even with a 30 year gap.
It seems awkward to send Facebook messages and emails, when I can even remember some of their phone numbers! I attended my 25th high school reunion and enjoyed myself. And I have stayed a little bit connected. On Facebook, I stay a lot more connected. Not only have we caught up, but some of us have rekindled old friendships with a deeper more mature tone.
Time really changes folks, some don't have hair, and others have gained some significant weight. Beyond all that, some of us have matured, and others have been beaten up by life. A few of my old neighbors are on my Facebook prayer list. Other kids I didn't really take time to know then, have shown a real interest in what I am doing now.
For me, it's been a good experience. Of course the guys I was closest to in 1976, have not yet showed up. Conversely, all the kids from my neighborhood that used to hang out with, riding stingray bikes, walking to the drug store, playing pond hockey and football, they are online. It's pretty amazing.