Friday, July 17, 2009

The intermingling of ghosts

Something's been bothering me about Facebook, and I think I've finally put my finger on it. It's the ghosts, and how they are rubbing up against each other.

I think my life history is somewhat typical of an American of my age and class. I grew up in one town, moved to another for high school. I transferred a couple of times in college and I studied abroad. I moved away after college and lived in several places, each time with a different set of roommates. I married and moved again. I had several jobs in a few fields until I settled on a career. The people I have worked with have come and gone.

In each of these places and times, there was a unique cast of characters. As I moved on to the next phase of life, some of these folks stuck with me, but most became gradually fainter in my everyday thoughts. Some names were better etched in my mind - someone who had embarrassed me or loved me or someone who had a particularly odd set of ears or habits.

The kaleidoscope of people through whom I see my past is special to me. No one else has had exactly the same influences or experiences. The names in my past float through my dreams like ghosts, haunting me until I can remember what year that was, and sometimes annoying me by showing up over and over again like poltergeists.

And now those ghosts have materialized as my Facebook friends. The girl I slightly knew in high school who signed my yearbook, but who had only stuck in your mind because of her unusual name, now pops up daily as she updates me on her job and family. My former boss and the first person I went to a dance with in 8th grade turns up, right next to each other, as I read my News Feed. Looking at the Chat list to see who is online is like a "This Is Your Life" script - former lovers, someone I knew in preschool, a couple of people I sang with in chorus, my nephew, and a co-worker.

This line-up is disconcerting. Even worse is when they make comments on my updates, and then end up in a comment-discussion with each other! "Wait!", I think. "These timelines can NOT intersect! The time-space continuum will be corrupted if my next door neighbor from 1963 ever meets and talks to the former receptionist at my last job!"

Facebook has me hooked, but if I ever give it up, it will be because of the ghosts.