A few months ago I got an email from a relative of mine asking me to join one of those social networking sites.
It wasn't the first time I'd been asked to join a site like that. I'd gotten "invitations" from other friends over the last year or so. I always said no, as I just didn't want to spend the time keeping up with my profile/homepage and keeping track of what all my "friends" are doing. I'd also heard some horror stories about some of these sites. I didn't need or want the hassle!
I figured that I already had enough computer stuff on my plate as it was with this blog, a couple of message boards, emails, general reading and other web explorations - not to mention playing a few games! I've installed software that I haven't even had a chance to really learn how to use yet. Then there was all the non computer stuff like errands, cleaning, laundry, baking and other necessities of life that were sometimes taking a backseat to my computer time. I had to draw the line somewhere, didn't I?
I really didn't have the time or desire to join this site - but the person that asked me this time was someone who is close to my heart - not just because they are a family member but because they are a kind, intelligent, funny and loving human being that I don't get to see nearly as often as I'd like. They haven't asked a lot of me over the years and it is hard to stay up to date when you are a few thousand miles apart. This would be a good way to keep in touch with them and their family. So, I decided to take a look around the site and see what it was all about.
To do that properly, I had to create an account. I could always cancel it if I didn't feel completely comfortable with it. I was pleasantly surprised to see just how much I could customize the various settings and notifications. There were also a number of ways to keep personal info such as birthday, location, and contact info private. You didn't have to display a real pic of yourself or even allow yourself to be found in general searches or even be seen as a friend of someone if you didn't want to be seen/found. No one can see your page if they aren't one of your friends if you mark it in your settings. You don't have to accept friend requests or even acknowledge someone if you don't want to. You can even choose to ignore friends if they bug you too much!
Hmm, this might not be so bad after all. I can be a hermit when I want to be and social when and with whom I want to be. I could live with that. I accepted my relatives request and sent a few requests to people who had asked me to join in the past.
I started looking for some people from my past - just to see who was there. I looked not only for people that I wanted to reconnect with but also for names of people that I didn't particularly want to be in touch with again. People whom I knew as a kid, or through the religious past or had just been part of my life at some point. Let's be honest here, some people are part of the past for a good reason.
I was actually quite surprised by how many people I was able to find and how blatantly open some were with their information on full display for anyone to see. Most, I found through friends of friends. I looked for more unique names first, then looked at their friends list if it was visible. That made it easier to find the right person among the dozens of similar names like Jane Doe and John Smith.
There were a few people that I really hoped I'd find. People whom I'd been close to at various times in my life and through the natural course of things had gradually lost touch with. I wasn't sure about contacting some, as it had been a long time. I knew how much I had changed and wondered how much they had. Would they even remember me or would we have anything in common other than a past acquaintance? I had "Googled" a few names over the past year or so, and really hadn't had a lot of luck finding the people I wanted to, but this was different. This site would connect me directly with people I hadn't seen in years. That can be a little scary and intimidating.
The first person I sent a note to was a friend I had lost touch with about 10 years ago. We had been close friends for a number of years, but our lives were headed in different directions and we just slowly lost touch.
I also wrote a short note to say hello to someone I hadn't talked to in 25 years. We had met working at summer camp in the mid 1970's. It was one of those friendships where you click instantly and we were close friends for about 10 years, before we lost touch around 1984.
Before I sent each note, I took a deep breath and then hit the send button. I hoped that I wasn't making a big mistake. Well, I didn't have wait long for answers. When I checked in the next day, there were answers from both of them.
The lost friend of 10 years was really glad to hear from me and we are getting reacquainted via emails as they no longer live in the city. Over the years they had taught me a lot about life, love, acceptance, politics and music. I have really missed this persons insights, opinions and humour and am thankful to have them in my life again..
The lost friend of 25 years, was also thrilled to hear from me and had always wondered where I had wound up and what I was doing! We chatted by emails for a couple of weeks and then met for drinks one frosty winter evening. We talked non stop for three hours. We have both changed a lot, but we also still have a lot in common. Neither of us wants this friendship to drift away again.
Through those two I have found a few other lost friends. It feels good to have these people in my life again. I haven't sent or received a lot of "invitations" and that is fine with me.
I want to keep this whole reconnecting thing simple and real. I'm not going to connect just for the sake of connecting. Some people have hundreds of friends but that isn't my style. I don't want this to get out of hand to the point of accepting friend invitations from people just because they know someone I do - or having so many friends that I can't keep track of them all. To me that would defeat the whole purpose of me joining this social networking craze.
There are still a few people I would like to find and see how life has been treating them all these years, but I'm going to take this slowly and enjoy getting to know my renewed old friendships!
I guess I owe my relative a big THANK YOU for getting me started on reconnecting!