Towards the end of the year the Boulevardier’s ponderings are reflective. I embrace sentiment and this time of year lends favourably.
The song that we link hands and arms to, and sing at the stroke of midnight, and usually through an alcohol hazed fog, makes me not only ring in the New Year but think on old acquaintances – particularly those whom I haven’t seen or spoken to in a while.
When we are young(er) we push forward into life enthusiastically and rarely look back. I think back to the time of leaving school. These were the days before the (American) Prom was born in the UK and we collected our exam results and scattered to the corners of the country/world pursuing our dreams whether travel, education or employment. Of course there are those we stayed in touch with and I am proud to still be in regular contact with several members of my junior school class.
Those that were acquaintances rather than close friends were rarely brought to mind.
This all changed in 2000 with the advent of Friends Reunited. WOW! A revelation indeed. In the early days of that site you could enter your details against your school year and send messages to other classmates (as long as both had paid for membership).
Social networking exploded thereafter with Facebook and Twitter seeming to take lead positions. Photos, stories, drama and the mundane acts of life unfold in our newsfeeds.
I have been involved in both attending and coordinating reunions arranged over social media. We have set up school pages and everyone has added school photos.
This simply wouldn’t have happened 20 years ago.
I have met, re-met, and become friends with those who were previously acquaintances and realised what great friends we could have been at school too. I’m not going to give myself too hard a time about it though as my school was massive with over 1500 pupils and my year alone was in excess of 250. However, I suspect that irrespective of the size of the school, lots of people who are a similar age to me will report comparable experiences.
Social media comes under the scrutiny of those who believe it’s taking away from real life, person to person interactions. If I had a pound for every time someone said ‘I don’t need Facebook, as I see my friends.’ I would be a very rich man. Some of these sceptics have subsequently become avid social media users.
As long as there’s perspective you can reach a much wider audience than you would through traditional methods and help maintain remote and infrequent friendships.
For example how many postcards would we previously have sent from holidays? Ten maybe? And how many would arrive after the holiday had expired?
My newsfeed on Facebook is awash with shots of beautiful beaches, sunsets, and bronzed (sometimes red) friends in real time.
I suspect the term ‘friends’ is the reason some became foxed. Not everyone who I connected with on Facebook would be classed as a friend in traditional terms. One definition is someone who you know, like and trust. My connections are a multifarious collection of people from school, work and previous places of employment, work clients, those I’ve played internet- based games with, those with similar interests connected through mutual friends, and some I’ve come to know through other networking sites like Twitter.
When I became ill at the beginning of 2013 and looked for support I went to Facebook. The volume of wellwishers and kind thoughts was overwhelming through my posts and private messages.
Problems start to incur however, when some start to live their lives through Facebook and stop engaging in real life. Social Media addiction is also a recognised condition. But this is a story in itself and not part of my reflection today.
It will be interesting to look back in twenty years and understand whether those who are young and leaving school in the Facebook era stay in more regular contact with a larger group throughout their lives and whether this does impact on real face to face meeting.
In any event I shall post on New Year’s Eve a message of gratitude and well wishes to all those I am in contact with over social media and be grateful for the love, support and laughs we have shared either in real life or online as both are invaluable to me. And that includes YOU, all my lovely blog readers!
May 2014 prosper for y’all!