Around a year or so ago, an old friend of mine from high school, whom I hear from hardly ever, sent me an email requesting that I join Facebook. Facebook? I thought, with disdain. Seriously? Isn’t that for like, college kids? I deleted it. Then, a few months ago, a friend of mine who lives here in LA mentioned that she’d just joined Facebook and was having a blast with it. Seriously? I said to her. Facebook? Isn’t that for college kids? She assured me that I would be amazed at how many people our age are on there. Okay, I said, but still. Isn’t it really meant for college kids? I mean, isn’t going on Facebook at our age kind of like going shopping at Forever 21? And do I really want to have to make virtual small talk with every person I’ve ever known in my entire life? She tried to convince me that it wasn’t like that, but I held firm. By mid-summer, however, the pressure was mounting. Suddenly, wherever I went, everyone I knew was talking about Facebook, and I was starting to feel like I was only one who wasn’t in on all of the fun. Okay, okay, I thought. I’ll do it.
I joined during the last few weeks of August – that blissful time of the year between camp and school, when you’re just hanging out with your kids and have nowhere to go and nowhere to be – and almost immediately, I became obsessed. Oh, my God! There’s that cute guy who moved to Ohio in 8th grade! Oh, my God! There’s the girl I used to play with every weekend at the shore! Oh, my God! There’s a group of every person I went to camp with in 1985! I was manic in my Friending, and I often stayed up until one or two in the morning, searching for names I hadn’t thought of in twenty, sometimes thirty years. I posted status updates once, sometimes twice a day – Risa Green is so ready for school to start! Risa Green just cleaned out her car and found three years worth of Cheerios and Goldfish between the seats! Risa Green thinks roasted marshmallows on a chocolate chip cookie are better than roasted marshmallows on a graham cracker! – and all day long, my Blackberry buzzed like a little bee with email notifications of Friend requests and inbox messages.
And then September rolled around, and my life slammed into me like a truck going ninety miles per hour. Now, there was carpool to drive and lunches to make and after school activities to go to. There was homework to supervise and – oh, yeah – a book to finish writing, and dinners to cook and doctors appointments to make, and suddenly, the Friend requests and the in-box messages and the status notifications were all starting to feel like just another chore. You see, I emailed my (real) friend who first dragged me into all of this. It is for college kids. They’re the only ones who have the kind of time for this kind of time suck.
I’m not saying that I don’t see the value of Facebook. After all, I don’t live in the city where I grew up, so running into old high school or camp friends happens almost never for me, and Facebook is a great way to reconnect with the people I really want to reconnect with. But do I really need to reconnect with the guy who moved to Ohio in 8th grade? Do I really care what my former next door neighbor is doing right at this minute? Do I really want to be tagged in photos from 1986? And, most importantly, do I really want all of these so called “Friends” to know so much about me? The New York Times Magazine recently ran an article about how sites like Facebook and Twitter are, socially, allowing us all to live in a kind of small-town America, where everyone knows everyone’s business, and nobody ever moves away. I guess how you feel about this depends on how you feel about who you were back in high school relative to who you are today. And it also depends on how you feel about your worlds colliding. For example, I recently discovered, on Facebook, that a girl I wasn’t very nice to in the 5th grade is an old camp friend of a guy I went to law school with. Now, obviously, everyone changes as they get older, but still, do I want my law school friend hearing about a side of me that I buried a long time ago? No, not really.
So, I’ve quietly started un-Friending some of the people I hooked up with during my initial, Facebook binge. It doesn’t send a notification to people when you do this, and I figure that they’ll never even notice that one of their three hundred and eighty seven friends has disappeared. I’ve stopped posting status updates, I’ve stopped sending messages to people, and I’ve stopped searching for people to become new “friends.” But there is, however, at least one good thing that’s come out of all of this: I won’t have to travel back east to go to my high school reunion next year. After all, now that I’ve been on Facebook, I already know what everyone is doing.