I was out of place on Facebook ’05, and students weren’t pleased to find the old professor lurking in their milieu. Things worsened when I counseled a graduating senior about her online presence: “Ah…that profile picture of you smoking the cigarette and drinking a martini? It just might turn off a potential employer, you know.”
Based on her reaction, I should have just told her she looked fat in the dress. Sheesh!
So I stopped offering counsel to Facebook exhibitionists and became a voyeur. I nearly quit the community in 2006, but realized you can’t study social media if you don’t go to the parties. In a few years, the youthful “edu” crowd mellowed, and today, most understand that FB provides evidence that can and will be used against you in a job search. Students are more careful about the content they post, and Facebook is less salacious as a result.
When Facebook opened to the world, several of my good friends predicted disaster. “It’s over,” one said. “It’ll be a geezer network in no time.”
It’s far from “over” for Facebook. Sure, the community turned pretty gray once it opened to the masses. But it also grew 10-fold, expanding revenue potential for its investors and networking opportunities for Facebook citizens.
Now to my flashback…
I like Facebook — a lot. But I didn’t really “get it” until sometime last week — an “aha” moment that drove home the personal value of Zuckerberg’s community.
It started when a boyhood neighbor friended me. I hadn’t thought about Jon since high school. I always liked him, but we didn’t hang out together except at the bus stop. I last saw him in 1971.
Over the next week or two, Jon connected me to handful of others who shared seats on Bus 75 in the late 60s and early 70s. Some of us started to chat, and Jon continues to post conversation starters that draw a handful of us together to chat about old times.
How cool is this — connecting to folks I’ve not seen or heard from is nearly 40 years? And it’s fun. I reminisced with Bill, my old nextdoor neighbor, about my parents’ high-performance Pontiac that I drove like a madman. I chatted with Jon, Sarah and a few others about the cast of characters who were the shopkeepers of Philadelphia Street. Sarah’s dad, Saul, was the most memorable by far, and an extraordinary gentleman.
Most of our chats resemble the conversations you have at class reunions. We focus on the old times, and only the best of memories, not the painful ones. When you grow up in a little berg like Indiana, Pa., you share a lot of common experiences — from cruising the Dairy Queen to stashing a case of Iron City beer in a cold stream outside of town. (OK, maybe I’m the only one who chilled beer in the creek!)
Next week, I plan to cajole my new old friends into posting “way back” photos to their profiles. You’ve seen mine (above), from a day when the world had style and smokin’ was cool. I don’t remember much about my prom date, but the crushed-velor tuxedo will never leave me. 🙂
A lot of my pals don’t share fond recollections of their high-school days or the little towns where they grew up. For me, it was a wonderful life, so perhaps it’s no coincidence that it happened in the same town where the real George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) was reared. His bronze statue (as Mr. Smith) still stands guard outside the courthouse.