the old versus new facebook generation (no, not the layout change)

Very recently more people from my high school years have been finding me on facebook and friending me. When this first started happening, i was wary to accept their requests, mainly because the people who i’m still friends with from my high school i still keep in contact with, so why would i start rekindling interaction with other former high schoolers whose relationship was such that i haven’t seen or talked to them in over a decade and a half? it again felt like it was a degree of voyeurism and a particular sense of artifice that i touched upon when i first joined facebook.

since then, i’ve been much more open about letting any random high school acquiantance or former friend into my… “facebook life” as a self-psychological experiment, which is too complicated to get into with this entry. And since i’ve started doing this, a particular line of thinking has come into my brain having to do with the difference between facebook users of my high school/college generation versus the current high school/college generation.

For me, seeing these faces come back onto my radar in little snippets slowly but continuously feels like a very time-stretched version of the 10-year or 20-year high school reunion – and those sort of reunions have always seemed odd to me. After high school, i don’t hear anything from some of these people and then a decade later, the fact that we went to the same high school and maybe had passing conversations in the hall or were in classes together during a highly developmental time in our lives is supposed to be some sort of relevant “common ground” to shake hands?

One thing that facebook has taught me about this is that at least in an online concept, going through that is not merely not as painful as i thought it would be, it’s actually fun. i’m so fascinated with people and their experiences in general that any excuse to see where people are in their lives and the direction their paths take is awesome and valuable even if they’re strangers, so having some background on even casual acquaintances and where they are now is fascinating. But with some people, i scratch my head as to why they would be interested in anything about *me*; in my head, i’d be thinking, “who are you again?”, or “didn’t we talk maybe twice in the whole time we were in high school?”, or “didn’t you think i was a total loser?”

granted, again, all of us are in different places than we were, and so maybe the reinteraction is a reflection of that.

I’m tangenting again. The point is, people who use fb that are in high school and college now will never have that “stretched out 10-year reunion” sort of feeling. Facebook takes away that potential whether negative or positive to link to a past that was forgotten because facebook makes it much more difficult to create a true “past”. Ten years from now, they’re not going to be suddenly contacted and friended by people that they haven’t heard from in all that time since high school/college. Instead, ten years from now, they would have been casually reading through ten years of status updates, and casually looking at ten years of photos.

i feel like there’s a significant long-term implication about that, and i’m not quite sure what it is. Maybe just that people who are a part of the current fb generation get more of a blur between what their past is to their present. The cynical side of me thinks that this can be problematic. i’m certainly not the same person now than i was in high school, and some of what i put into the past i want to keep in the past. Seeing how people are now after the decade gap is fine because i see them more the way they are now and how they’ve changed, so they don’t feel as much a part of my past as much as a different form and hybrid version of the present. But with people now, what happens when they change, when their lives meander down different paths and they don’t feel connected to the friends that seemed so important to them in those years? Do they defriend them on fb? ignore them?

And that’s another difference between the current internet generation versus the past non-internet generation: before, when people went their separate ways, it was more acceptable to fall out of contact simply because keeping in contact wasn’t an easy task. Now, even when people move to the other side of the world, the internet can keep them connected whether they want to or not, and there’s almost this internet social stigma, a pressure to not lose touch with people who they may only vaguely know or relate to. You defriend someone on facebook and it can cause drama and turn an anthill into a mountain. “why did she defriend me? are we not friends anymore? do i ask? what does it mean? do we no longer say hi when we pass in the hall? do i not call or invite her to a party if i come back into town visiting?” as if the concept of “friend” on facebook or LJ or anywhere in that “slice of life” paradigm actually is necessarily equivalent to a real friend.

For me, i still have a fairly clear understanding that fb is a mere touchpoint of what actual human interaction is supposed to be about. That said, i do accept it more than i used to because honestly it is kind of nice to see what people from my past are up to and how they’ve changed (or maybe it should be more accurate to say how they present themselves as changed). In the long run, though, it can still feel cheap, especially because since i’m not always the greatest at getting back to people nor sometimes being the most organized about important things, fb can make it seem like those shortcomings are amplified, and that may be somewhat true, but some of it is also sijmply that the more people i get exposed to on fb, the more my people energies can potentially get spread too thin.

Originally posted on darkblog resonate.  I welcome any thoughts or comments there.

Mendel Lee

I'm a composer, musician, and music educator residing in New Orleans, LA.

5 thoughts to “the old versus new facebook generation (no, not the layout change)”

  1. I’ve definitely noticed the same bizarre phenomenon with Facebook as it relates to me and the reunification of old friends, versus my young cousin Jonas.

    I recently was contacted by one of my closest, oldest friends from high school, and the resultant rekindling of our friendship has been a huge boon to us as we push through what are collectively the most difficult times of our lives. Meanwhile, Jonas’ everexpanding micro-tuned social network has caused him no end of turmoil when he attempts to take facebook friendships into the real work, especially when dating. Our generation is using facebook as a touchpoint; for younger kiddos, real life is that touchpoint, and facebook looks to be all they’ll have.

  2. Good article with great insights. I had no interest in joining Facebook after reading and hearing a ton about it for years nor did I really hope to rekindle ties with old school mates until this weekend. My wife joined Facebook, so being the computer guy that I am I joined to help her find her way around and share my thoughts. In using Facebook for only a few nights, I’ve found it to be a very rewarding experience. I’ve reconnected with old friends and guys like you who I used to ride a bus with and play at recess with and I’ve even connected for the first time with people I graduated with who I never came in contact with merely because our paths never crossed. One guy I graduated high school with shares the same career interests and likes the same television shows and movies I like and I’ll probably follow up with him for some career advice. Thanks for that Facebook. And thanks for reconnecting me with darknote’s author. I hope you and your family are well said author.

  3. avec face book j ai decouvert un univert de simpathie et j ai retrouver des petits cousins dans le monde entier et meme des homonimes avec qui nous avons un point commun le nom et l origine de depart la region du lac de lecco se qui nous fait des affinitees si vous vouler me rejoindre n esitez pas michel acquistapace

  4. Whoa… this site is pretty awesome :) your layout is really well designed, and your blogs are (judging from what i’ve read) very interesting. heehee… consider yourself favorited. :-P

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