When I joined facebook a few years ago, it was only open to college community members - mostly students, but the occasional faculty member or staff person with a university email account would join. It was a way for me to keep in touch with campus culture, to better understand and relate to my students. I logged in only on those rare occasions when students sent me a friend request. Most didn't friend me - especially the ones with the drunk photos, I suspect.
Now, I still use facebook as a way to keep in touch with students past and present, but the rest of my life is creeping in. Earlier I wrote about how it felt like a life integrator, bringing together queer Presbyterians and engineers for social justice and everything else I care about. Lately it's been feeling more like a nostalgia trip.
I've been friended by a number of high school classmates lately. I've even done some of the friending. But this nostalgic facebook-friending requires much more time and emotional energy than I bargained for, whether these are old friends I'm thrilled to be back in touch with, or people who, truth be told, never were my friends and were pretty darn mean to me throughout middle and high school. Hearing about loved ones lost, dreams shattered, major life accomplishments, and new hopes and dreams is all very intense, not to mention reliving old memories. Fitting who I am getting to know now with who I knew then is not always easy after 20 years. As my research student put it so succinctly a few weeks ago, people are complicated.
Sure, we all know a few straight evangelicals who come out of the closet as time passes... but what if that evangelical reveals he was an out gay atheist before becoming the straight (not ex-gay mind you, straight) evangelical you knew? Yep, people are complicated. Goth slackers become financial analysts, and the Mrs. Degree chasers become activist lawyers. Lies our parents told us are being revealed. Big lies. Dead people aren't really dead. Who our real parents are. That kind of thing.
My friend told me that you have to be in a good place to open those doors - to go to reunions, to return the phone calls from distant exes. That's certainly true, but being in a good place is not all you need - one has to be ready for the emotional swirl about to hit - and can one really ever be ready? I wasn't going to go to my reunion, but thanks to Facebook it's coming to me, ready or not.