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People of the (Face) Book – Part 1

July 12, 2008

Ok, I will admit it. I am a little bit addicted to Facebook right now. I signed-up last Sunday afternoon, and in the span of one week have spent an embarrassingly large amount of time connecting with individuals from all corners of my past.  High school, youth group, summer camp, college, law school and work… they are all out there on Facebook, just waiting to be discovered. Discovering them is not so difficult, but what I do with that discovery is a different question altogether.  Do I invite them to be my ‘friend’ or do I wait to be invited? If they invite me, do I ignore them? If I accept them, is it irresponsible not to send them a note that says “FYI – we knew each other 23 years ago and I have changed quite a bit in the interim. You may not like me now, maybe should we take things a little bit slower and reacquaint ourselves before we confirm our friendship for all the world to see?”

Notwithstanding my reservations though, I can’t help making those connections with my past, while also engaging with the friends that are participants in my ‘present.’  And the information I find out is fascinating. Life trajectories predicted and altered, marriages formed and dissolved, career paths changed and musical tastes refined. It is equal parts nostalgia and voyeurism, a strange mix of comfort and exhilaration. My past is still out there, but it too has moved forward. All the places we thought we would go…some of us have. And others have gone to other places that we would have never imagined.  And in the present I have found my friends with whom I socialize on a daily basis have secret lives that, but for Facebook, I would never know.  One is a superb Scrabble player, another one likes Metallica.  One of my friends who I thought was in a solid relationship notes on his ‘profile’ that his relationship status is ‘complicated.’  Interesting – but what isn’t complicated these days?

At its essence, Facebook is – to me – an updated, technologically powered version of the old game of ‘Jewish geography.’ However, now with Facebook, Jewish geography is on steroids – not only can we find our links in the past, but we can link them forward to our present with photos, factoids and witty (or not so witty) status updates. And then there is the serendipitous moment of realization that an old camp friend maybe really could be a current friend too – maybe be reconnecting through Facebook we can realize that friend lives in the same city, maybe has the same career, maybe is searching for the same things we are searching for -– personally, socially, spiritually – Jewishly.

And speaking of Jewish connections – these individuals from our pasts – are they lost members of our personal tribes but still members of our collective Tribe? And can Facebook be more than just a tool in the exploration of Jewish geography, but rather an approach to developing its social and spiritual landscape?

Interesting questions to consider, and I will.  But in the mean time – I need to go connect with my past, and make plans for my future.

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