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Whitney: Friends On Facebook

04/27/10 5:55PM By Diana Whitney
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(HOST) Commentator Diana Whitney is among those discovering the joys - and occasional surprises - of social networking.    

(WHITNEY) My old college boyfriend just friended me on Facebook.  I never imagined I'd use "friend" as a verb, let alone see this guy's name appear on my screen after fifteen years.  It took me days to reply.  

"Hey! Good to hear from you."  I attempted a casual tone, despite the fact that we'd once planned to spend our lives together.  

He told me he was a trial lawyer, married with two kids in New York - on the surface, living the predictable life of his father.  

The web lets you seek people and find them in ways that were previously impossible. People from the past used to vanish into the netherworld of high school yearbooks and college stories.  You wouldn't see an ex unless you attended your reunion or bumped into each other on the street.  

But now they're potentially at your fingertips, always within reach.  They pop up on your computer, enter your home with a personal profile of their likes and dislikes, photos of their family and friends, and a status update of what they are doing RIGHT NOW.   It can be a surreal experience - and sometimes unsettling.
But I confess, I got a little thrill that the Boyfriend had sought me out.  When we were 19, we'd agreed we should find each other someday if we didn't end up married.

Back then, I wore batik-print tee-shirts and vanilla perfume.  The world had just discovered email.  Apple blossoms swirled in the bubble of our college romance, and we locked ourselves in his dorm single and blasted Van Morrison.   We were dizzy in love and thirty seemed lifetimes away.  I could stay up all night and look better in the morning, lips swollen with kissing, eyes bright with adrenaline.

Now dark circles and crow's feet mark the face in the mirror.  I don't know when I got so tired.  I fix the kids some Bunny Noodles, pop in an Elmo video, and sneak a few minutes on the computer. 

Facebook is a fantasy world, an ongoing cocktail party you can join from your living room.  I resisted it for ages until my little sister - a "digital native" at age 25 - persuaded me to sign up.  Like most of her generation, my sister's been on Facebook since it began in 2004, and she's utterly at home with cyber-relationships.

A passionate artist friend with a slew of former lovers says, "Every single one of my old boyfriends has found me."  But like me, she's occasionally been shocked by who surfaces online.

Nothing dies on the Internet, or so the saying goes.  Maybe I was naïve, but I didn't expect Facebook to resuscitate my past.  After a few brief exchanges with my Ex, I didn't write back.

The center of my world is here and now, with my family.

But once upon a time this guy was the center of my world. And I guess I don't want to diminish our old love with shallow cyber-chat.
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