Monday, November 24, 2008

Too Many connections?

Let me start by saying that I love love love being connected. I first got interested in the power of the Internet in the early 90's, when I was teaching Spanish in a remote area. Wouldn't it be great if we could use the Internet to give the students authentic learning experiences? So I packed up and went to grad school to learn how to use this great medium.

And boy, did I learn. What I learned most is that there are always more ways to learn with the Internet. Social networking is the biggie these days: connecting with people via Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, and various others. And I've got spaces on them all (hey, I have to for work. I love my job.) I found old undergrad buds, elementary school chums, and even former teachers. My dad even found a place where he could reconnect with his service buddies. But is it always a good thing?

I ran into an old grad-school buddy on Facebook, my favorite. She's now on another continent, but Facebook lets us keep in contact. With our first few messages, she asked if I knew where an old friend of ours ended up. An unusual name and a web search meant that I found her in short order and emailed almost immediately. It was a while before I heard back. In that time, I wondered. Does she want to hear from me? Is it possible that hearing from me reminds her of some things that she'd rather forget? I remember the good times we shared. But there are also some other times that are quite difficult for both of us.

Fortunately, she sounded glad to hear from me. She'd been looking for me too. So I dodged a bullet on that one.

The bullet came back today. I got a friend request from someone I'd known most of my life but had not seen in over ten years. The last time I saw him was a rough time, and I wasn't really sure that I would or would even want to hear from him again. When I think of him, I remember not the good times but the last time that I saw him, which was difficult for us both. While curious to know what hands life had dealt him (which is probably the reason he wanted to connect with me), I was unsure about re-establishing contact. (And no, it wasn't dangerous or violent or stalker-ish. It was just...difficult.)

What are the implications of this global connection? Is it good? Or does it mean that we will never have closure?

What do you think? And, more importantly, would you have accepted the friend request?


Evil Twin's Wife said...

I probably would have because people can change so much in 10 years or less, even. I have both a MySpace and Facebook - but only have pictures of my kids on MySpace (no names) and share very little on Facebook, so I feel like I keep some privacy of my personal life intact.

MountainLaurel said...

It's interesting to see your views on Facebook v. MySpace. I share very very little on MySpace, but much more on Facebook. I got a Facebook account about three years ago, for work, as I work in higher ed, and at that time FB was for higher ed only (you had to have a .edu address to sign on). MySpace seemed a lot more open.

I guess you go where your friends are and that's where you feel most comfortable. Just like in life, huh?

Evil Twin's Wife said...

Well, I have my MySpace set to private and I only accept people I know in real life (same on Facebook), but it seems like Facebook broadcasts stuff out to everyone. Like I'll see someone I know, who is a friend and it will say "Jane Smith commented on Joe Blows photo" then it will show the comment AND the picture. I may know Jane, but not Joe. I don't want MY kids' pics popping up on random profiles just because I'm a common friend. KWIM? I'm very proud of my children - and of course, I think they're the most beautiful children on Earth, but they're also minors and I don't feel like broadcasting their images is "okay"... that's just me, though. I know others don't see it as a violation of privacy. And, I may put something on my blog soon that has one of my kids on it. Maybe. My daughter would have made the cover of the Wonderful West Virginia magazine, but someone over in the govs office didn't like the layout of the shot. Oh well... :-)

MountainLaurel said...

That's true. I had forgotten that you can click through to others' pictures. I don't have kids so I feel much less worried about that. I do have a pic of my dad and one of me, my dad, my brother, and my niece. Other than that, it's pretty much pictures of me that others have posted.I dont' think anyone has commented on that pic (or even seen it), and I don't have it labeled by her name or even relationship. I'm a little nervous about putting someone else's kids pics up. If they're my kids, fine, but I think that's the parents' decision.

I guess I'm just more willing to put up with Facebook as I"m more comfortable with it.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Interesting question and dilema.
Do you fear this person?
Did he do bad things to you?
Would opening a door only renew old resentments?
Do you care about him?
Do you really want to know anything about him now?
Do you want him to know about you?
Will he bring anything positive to your life today?
Maybe it would be best to just focus on today and not bother. Afterall, it's been 10 yrs. The relationship, whatever it was, no longer exists.

MountainLaurel said...

Thanks for the observations, SH. That's pretty much the thought process I went through.

Answers are: no, I don't fear him, nor did he do anything really bad. He hurt someone I love very much. I'd love to know what he's doing and how his life is working out. There may be a chance to renew the relationship (NOT romantic), but there's equal chance for drama.

In the end, I decided that the potential benefits outweigh the potential costs. And I accepted the offer. We'll see where it goes from here. After all, it's possible that we'll just drift out of or leave each other's lives again. And with this one, that would be the worst outcome.

Banewood said...

Sleep is the answer:

SagaciousHillbilly said...

All this connecting scares me. I try to remain as anonymous as possible on the internet because I know there are some whack jobs out there. Hell, look around this little cyber community and you'll see them glaring brightly. . .and I know, some probably, no, they really do, believe that I am one of those whack jobs. Which shows that just like you might think some harmless old dude is a scary whack job, you might think some scary whack job is a harmless old man. You just don't know.
I don't think a person can be too cautious, especially women.


MountainLaurel said...

Banewood, I think sleep is the answer to all problems. Good to have neuroscience to back me up on that!

SH, it does scare me a little bit. In my broader Internet existence, I keep my anonymity. If you know me, it's not too tough to figure out who the real Mountain Laurel is. But this is an identity that I enjoy, and like to keep it separate from my other life. I'm pretty certain that if you know Mountain Laurel only, it's going to be a little tough to figure out my true identity.

Even on Facebook, which lists my physical location, I am careful and don't post identifying information such as address, phone number, etc. And I generally don't friend people on Facebook if I don't know them in real life.

My long-lost Facebook friend isn't a whack job, I'm pretty sure of it. There's some family drama which I won't go into.thus far, no contact other than the Facebook updates. and I made Mountain Mama's day yesterday when I was able to show her his pictures and she was able to find out how he was doing. So, thus far, it's good.

Thanks for your concern over my safety. As a woman, I might be a little more paranoid about my safety than I would be if I were a man. I've only met 2 people IRL that I originally befriended on the Internet, and both were positive experiences. I'm not apt to start, though it did help me when I moved to a new town where I knew practically nobody.

I've never thought you were a whack job. you're a guy that reads the signs and is frustrated that you seem like the only one. I can identify with that.

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

To your last question, I can only apply it a few past relationships that ended very badly, and base it on that, and the answer is no.

No. No. No.

Hell, I become nauseous thinking about it.

I try to keep people and things out of my life that trigger negative memories. Drains my energy.

I also agree with Sagacious, but we're of a different generation...

MountainLaurel said...

Kit, I can see your point. I was hoping that I would be able to fix it to the positive memories.

But so far, it's been a big bunch of nothing. Friend request, I asked how he's been, and hear nothing. So it's working out OK, and it's been 2 weeks now (I think).

And thank you to both Kit and SH for being concerned about my safety. Believe me, if I had been concerned about my safety for 2 seconds, it would have been a non-issue. it means a lot that 2 folks I've never met would be so concerned.