My Back Pages: Reconnecting Through Social Media

I think I know how ancient sailors lost at sea must have felt returning home after many years. Upon landfall they would find the landscape familiar, but the people in it almost unrecognizable.

Family and friends would be older, and they would be leading lives that had moved in different directions. But there would also be great joy, recognition, connection, and a sense of belonging that would wipe away loneliness and loss.

That is what happens when old friends reconnect after many years through social media. Warm hugs, wide smiles, friendly small talk, and shared memories set the stage for deeper conversation and discovery.

“Hey, do you remember when?” and “Whatever happened to?” give way to stories about small triumphs, private grief, and the long road between what was then and what is today. That which we thought we knew about the other is transformed into something new, something different, and often; something quite unexpected.

The liberal has become conservative; the wild party animal has become domesticated; the once strong and vibrant has become fragile and tentative.

Or maybe their lives have turned out exactly as you thought they might; the outspoken young student leader is now a powerful corporate executive, the sharp young lawyer is a judge, and the skirt-chasing Lothario is still on the prowl but moving more slowly these days.

These encounters not only allow you to experience your friends differently; but they also allow you to experience your own life in a new way by reminding you of who you used to be. Sometimes it’s a happy memory, but sometimes it opens doors sealed for good reason long ago.

I’ve heard that today’s college students are stressed out because Facebook keeps them tethered to unpleasant people they knew from high school. They worry that their popularity might suffer if they sever those connections–even if those connections are no longer useful.

But for those of us who came to social media a bit later in life; the joy of reconnection with old friends is possible because we were actually disconnected from them in the first place.

Joni Mitchell once sang: “You don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone”, and that’s still true. But now, through social media; you can get it back.
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