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McDONALD: Finding old friends; Facebook's double-edged sword

September 15, 2017 - 12:00 PM

OPINION


There it sits on my computer screen, a Pandora’s box if you will, that I’m not sure I want to open.

It’s not a real box, of course, but the send box on a Facebook friend request. And it's not the first time I’ve searched for this particular friend but it’s only in the last few months that I found him.

If this is the fellow I think it is — the name is the same but after 45 years, the photos are inconclusive — he was my best friend in Grade six and seven.

We lived about five houses apart and were pretty much inseparable during those two years, classmates doing backyard and basement sleepovers, playing a running game of war during the summer and building snow forts during the winter.

Then he moved away, to the other side of Edmonton. We tried to keep it up but the friendship couldn’t survive the cross-city, three-bus trip it took to keep connected.

By high school we had mostly lost touch and he joined the pantheon of friends gone by, scattered as they are to the four winds by time and circumstances.

Almost all I have left of him is memories, the only physical manifestation of our relationship being one of those photo booth snapshots showing a couple of gap-tooth kids with bad haircuts mugging it up for the camera.

As time passed, my old best friend became like a fossil in an archeological dig, buried under layers of memories of newer friends (who themselves may since have come and gone).

And without a chance meeting or making the effort to track him down the old school way — friends of friends, the phonebook, a private detective — he would likely have stayed buried, until my memory of him became like a diamond, glittering without flaws.

And then along came Facebook.

Like everyone else who jumped on it in the early days, I joined the mad rush to find old friends and it wasn’t hard to hit pay dirt — sometimes they were trying to find you at the same time. I've since had reunions of sorts with old friends in pubs and restaurants, in their homes and mine, feasting on those old memories.

But all that glitters isn’t necessarily gold and I’ve since discovered that a friendship fondly remembered, one based on two or three years of friendship during the turbulent teenage years or deep college days, is not necessarily the basis for a renewed relationship.

Facebook allows all a forum and it’s surprising how quickly we reveal our true selves (mine included) through what we post, our likes and the comments we make.

Several of my found former friends turned out to be complete duds, revealing an ugly racist, sexist or dogmatically political side that was maybe nascent in their youth but otherwise unrevealed.

Others have shown themselves to be full-on hypochondriacs, posting all the gory details, others have revealed their obsessions, posting far too much or edging into awkward territory in the comments sections.

It took a few years before I was comfortable enough to close the door on some of those memories and hit the unfriend button. I’ve far too little time to spare working on a friendship that was never probably never meant to be, when I can use it to nurture those that are.

Hey, this cuts both ways. I’ve gone pruning through my friends list only to find I’ve been pruned myself. Apparently the new me didn’t jive with what they recall (or want to remember).

And yet not all those reconnections have turned sour. Some seem like an old pair of shoes that you can slip on any time, knowing they will always fit.

So now the dilemma remains; Do I want to hit send and open the box on this, one of the few fast friends from my youth that I haven’t been in touch with.

By opening the box I risk taking that diamond of a memory and shattering it, a chance I’m not sure I want to take.

— John McDonald is a long-time reporter, editor and photographer from the Central Okanagan with a strong curiosity about local affairs. You can reach him at jmcdonald@infonews.ca.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
InfoTel News Ltd

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