Meredith Carroll: Meredith Pro Tem
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
Even though I graduated from high school 17 years ago, lately I’ve felt as if I never left.
I opened up a Facebook account over a year ago to see for myself if it was true that Rudy Giuliani’s daughter actually wrote on her page that she was supporting Barack Obama’s presidency bid instead of her father’s (and my parents think I’m ornery).
After that I would occasionally receive e-mails from friends asking me to be their “friend” on Facebook. In each case I deleted the e-mail without much thought. I had no more desire to become an active member of Facebook than any other online community. I never created a MySpace page or started a blog. I joined LinkedIn only because my dad invited me and I wasn’t sure if declining would just further his case that I continue to be contrary even in my mid-30s. Besides, I didn’t really know what Facebook was all about and suspected that it might be a dating site that my husband would be less than thrilled to know I was a part of.
But then about a month ago I Googled an old friend, stumbled onto her Facebook page and saw all the people with whom she was “friends.” Intrigued and inspired by a little red wine (natch), I started furiously entering more names into the site’s search engine. Bunkmates from summer camp, frenemies from high school, suitemates from college, neighbors, friends of friends and first, second and third cousins (once and twice removed). Everyone was on there. Including every single person with whom I currently work.
I walked into the office the next day and asked, “You’re all on Facebook?”
“Yup,” they said.
“So I’m the only one who isn’t?”
I immediately logged on and checked my page, which had one message on it: “Meredith has no friends.” Not since I was left out of a pre-prom party in the 11th grade have I felt like such a loser.
So I posted a profile picture (one with me and my daughter, because posting a photo with offspring appears to be somewhat mandatory on Facebook) and started inviting people to be my friend. And then I got nervous. What if no one wanted to be my friend? I felt completely vulnerable and self-conscious, kind of like walking into the lunchroom alone in the seventh grade.
The next morning I woke up and checked my Facebook page. A little tingle of excitement raced through me as I saw that a few of my invitations had been accepted. But then I started to worry about the other invitations that were still floating out there in the Facebook universe. What if my advances were spurned? By dozens of people? And how is it that all of these people I knew were doing this thing and no one told me (forgetting the people who had invited me that I had ignored, of course)? And when did they all become friends with each other?
I also felt shy about attempting to reconnect with people I hadn’t thought about or spoken to in five, 10, 15, and in some cases, over 20 years. What if they didn’t remember me? What if they did remember me but remembered they didn’t like me? As more acceptances trickled in, I started waiting for the e-mails to follow. Surely no one would accept someone as a friend without at least exchanging a few words. But only a few e-mails arrived, which made me feel a little cheap. Like I was being used just to get everyone’s friend numbers up. Most people seem to have a few hundred friends. One guy I know has a jaw-dropping 761 Facebook friends (although presumably his definition of friendship is more than a little loosey goosey).
Still, it’s kind of cool that Facebook has reacquainted (and by “reacquainted” I mean reminded me, in most cases, that they exist) me with a bunch of people I probably never would have thought of or communicated with again in my life ” my nursery school boyfriend, my senior prom date, the guy who used to man the cash register at the place I get soup from sometimes. Something about being able to go onto someone else’s page, look at their personal photos, read about what they’re doing (sometimes on a minute-by-minute basis) ” it has all the benefits of being a stalker or peeping tom without a messy restraining order or court-appointed therapy. Who knew something so creepy could be such good fun?
And in some ways it’s kind of like a security blanket ” I may never speak to most of my Facebook friends, but at least we now know how to get in touch if any of us wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t recall who played the Camel with the Wrinkled Knees in the Raggedy Ann and Andy play in Mrs. Paul’s second-grade class.
Fortunately we can all rest easy remembering that I played Susie Pincushion. Quite brilliantly, I might add. I’m sure some of my Facebook friends will concur.
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