I can't say that I've had many experience in life that I felt were truly liberating. One I can single out, however, was just a few years ago, when I dumped all of my high school and middle school yearbooks into the trash bin. I'd lugged them around for years, rarely looking at them, and one day I finally realized that the reason I so infrequently paged through those books was that the memories they brought back were almost entirely unpleasant. I did not like the way I handled my life in high school, and all those books did was remind me of embarrassment and failure and opportunities I'd let slip by. There was little to be gained by keeping those yearbooks, and little to lose by discarding them.
I timed the disposal to coincide with trash pick-up day, so I would not have much opportunity to change my mind.
I have not missed those books since. Occasionally, however, I feel a twinge of joy -- yes, joy, and actual sense of light-heartedness -- when I think about having tossed them.
Within the past few months, prompted in part by some of my interweb friends who have joined FB, and curious after some of the FB stories I'd been hearing from co-workers, I toyed with the idea of posting a "real me" page. I went so far as to briefly activate an account, and attempt a search for people from my high school.
As I suspected would be the case, I found nothing from any of the, what, three or four people whom I might have been interested in finding out about. I ran across a number of names I had not thought about since graduation. I found a couple of pages from people I'd known since middle school or even elementary school.
I was annoyed that there's no facility for indicating and searching by elementary school. There are some kids I knew in elementary school whom I'd be much more interested in finding than anyone from high school.
What I found, after looking at a few (and there weren't many -- apparently FB isn't very big among my old HS peeps) pages, is that of the people who posted photos or wrote little blurbs, most of them look, and sound... old.
Laugh at me if you will, my dear Maya; but you know as well as I, that if I were really as elderly and ancient as you so often suggest, we wouldn't or couldn't be such jolly chums! We'd have nothing in common! So nyah nyah nyah to you!
I can't picture any of those "old" FB people from my high school trading juvenile (yet affectionate) insults with middle-schoolers, for one thing.
Seriously, there were a couple of photos I looked at (gawd, people take lousy photos. Like, how do you screw up freakin' AUTO focus?!), stared at, and scrutinized, trying to find some vestige of a resemblance to the face I thought I remembered. J.C., I knew you from second grade on; you worked at Taco Time for a while after graduation; who the hell is this fat old lady in your pictures?
Even if there were no decades-old squabbling still going on, being a part of a FB circle with people who are like decrepit ghosts from an unpleasant past would be... depressing. If nothing else, it would leave me feeling... old.
I deleted my temporary FB page within three days.
Dr. Wayne Dyer, whom I generally feel is more a clever marketing guru than a self-actualization guru, may be making a valid point when he claims that chronology means little, you're only as old as you feel. I'm not ready to feel old yet. FB, or at least the people from my personal past who are on FB, is like an anchor to the past. It does not make for progress, it makes for stagnation. In trendy jargon, FB, if not approached cautiously, facilitates and enables an unhealthy obsession with yesterday.
Believe me, I'm familiar with unhealthy clinging to the past. It's a talent I have. A talent from which I'm trying to distance myself. I can see FB as a tool of great power... for self-defeatism.
Mostly, though, I have no interest in all of those "old people" whom I haven't seen or talked to in, like, forever.
The real self-empowerment potential in Facebook, I feel, is the same empowerment I found when I tossed those yearbooks into the trash. It's about not succumbing to the pressure to join the 300-million faceless faces on Facebook. A quick glance at FB stats reveals that "35 and older" is the fastest growing demographic. Do I want to be hanging out with a bunch of old people?
Obviously, I'm in the minority here. How many regular internet forum users don't have a Facebook page? Not many, I'd wager. But for what it's worth, I don't want one. Sure, some of my current "internet friends" are on FB, and it might be fun to check in with them. But most of 'em I see at Plurk or Flickr, or sometimes LJ, or other places. Maybe I'm not hep or cool enough to see the appeal of FB -- but, if I want to have my own virtual FARM, I have a swell vintage Marx farm set packed away in the closet, with a barn and a silo and a working grain elevator. I don't need a FB farm simulator.
I'd like to see what K is up to, but if I'd get off my high-horse, or the couch, and write a letter....
Maybe if I had any real friends from my past, I'd care more about Facebook. But for the "real" friends from my past, I have phone numbers and email addresses. Sometimes we even talk.
Could be I'm missing out on something by not being on Facebook. But from what I read among my online friends, and hear in conversation at work, most of what I'm missing out on is "drama" dredged up from years and decades past. Maybe that crap works for some people, but I don't need it.
I guess it's ironic that, as I sit here typing this, a line from a song featured in a high school musical production my senior year comes to mind: "Make your future forget your past." Facebook would appear to be the antithesis of that sentiment.
So if it's all the same, I think I'll pass on the Facebook thing.