Social media and the power of reconnecting

3 May

For four days in August of 2011, I was in Budapest, visiting a friend studying abroad there. I met some of her classmates, one of which was her roommate, K. They seemed like nice people, and we all explored the city and watched fireworks together. And then I went home, and never really expected to talk to any of them again. 

More than two years later, I decided to move to Minneapolis, and searched Facebook for mutual friends, and lo and behold, there was K. A girl I barely talked to then, and certainly not since. But I only knew one other person in the Cities, and so I reached out. Now, we’re friends. 

So that’s the backstory. It’s a fun story when someone asks us how we know each other, but not really a huge deal. But it’s a pretty good indicator of one of my favorite things about social media: the fact that you can find someone again.

I’m the first to admit that I spend too much time on social media. There’s no real reason I need to have facebook or any other website open as much as I do. But when people delete their pages, or go on an unfriending spree of all the people they’re not really close to, I sometimes wonder if they’ve thought about what they’re really losing.

Facebook isn’t how I keep up with my close friends. Sure, I might send them links every once in a while, but I maintain friendships through real conversations, on the phone, and by spending time with them in real life. The internet doesn’t replace that. 

What Facebook brings, that we’ve never had before, is basically a regularly updated address book. A collection of almost every person you’ve spent time with in the last ten years. Grandparents, coworkers, classmates, babysitters, children of your parent’s friends, that guy you sat next to once on a plane … they’re all there. And if you want to find them again, you can. Easy.

I don’t worry about transferring all my numbers when I get a new phone, because I can just reach out to people online if I need to. I don’t need to make sure I have their updated email address (everyone I know has gone through a few during their online lifespan, but we’ve all only had one facebook profile) or physical address. I don’t have to remember where everyone has moved since we graduated in case I find myself in their city – every time I travel I search “my friends who live in ______” just to make sure I’m not missing a chance to grab coffee with someone I haven’t seen in years. 

My friendship with K would have never happened if it weren’t for social media. I probably wouldn’t have remembered her name. I certainly wouldn’t have remembered where she went to college, and I never would have known she moved here after graduating. If I somehow did, I wouldn’t have had any way to get in touch with her. Maybe we would have run into each other and had a serendipitous “I remember you!” moment. But it’s a big city, and probably not.

So sure, facebook is ruining the surprise of 10-year reunions.  But for me, it’s made some reunions happen that never would have otherwise. It’s not about seeing the “got a new job!” status of my close friend who told me yesterday anyways. It’s about knowing when I’m in the same city as that awesome person I met on the other side of the world and being able to turn an acquaintance into a friend. 

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