For Auld Lang Syne?
Friday evening and, as usual, I am wandering into a bar to check out some music and sink a few jars. This particular bar is a regular haunt, the guy strumming guitar and crooning away a friend of mine, the bar staff well versed in my preferences and idiosyncracies. It is one of those places that feels utterly relaxing in its familiarity... so I was at first a little surprised when one of the barmen called out "Hey, Binty - where did you go to uni?". Not a question I am used to hearing from these guys... usually I get the progression from "Pint, Binty?" to "Do you really want us to call the cops, Binty?" over the course of the evening. But, being as sober as I was at that point, I answered truthfully. He then pointed to the other end of the bar and my surprise level rocketed.
There, in all his slightly balder, slightly fatter glory was an old acquaintence from the old Alma Mater. I do not use the word 'friend' because I can't say that we ever particularly were, although we certainly had many mutual buddies. Yet here he was beaming at me like he was my long-lost brother... and so began the unplanned evening of reminiscences.
I would not wish to bore you with all the details (that's a lie - I have no problem boring you all shitless, I'd just rather not bore myself again writing down all the "I can't believe it's been X years"'s and the "Did you hear about whatsisname?"'s), suffice to say long-forgotten and often cringeworthy events were resurrected and old names from the past bandied about... all the while with me sitting there desperately trying to remember what the fuck THIS guys name was! At some point in the evening I managed to introduce him to a local friend and all of a sudden, as they exchanged pleasantries (and names!) I was enlightened... except that the name still meant absolutely bugger all to me.
How many times do you find yourself in this kind of situation? Okay, maybe not on a daily basis, but even if it's just bumping into a kid you once temped with for a week at some dodgy office who then talks as if you and he were founding partners of the company, or finding yourself in line at the supermarket next to the mother of the boy you sat next to in playgroup (kindergarten, for non-Brits) as she tells you every detail of his life ever since... we cannot help but get locked down from time to time by these perfectly nice, totally well-meaning, yet ultimately time-consuming (and often dull) individuals. And this is where sites like Facebook, Bebo and MySpace have become both a blessing and a curse...
Yes, I have been sucked into the mire of the Book of Face, as have several other bloggers listed here - although under my real identity of course. And it has been serving me well, illuminating me on my true past friends whereabouts and allowing me to re-establish several good relationships that had fizzled out simply because of distance and time pressures. As for the people I half-knew, I have no problem with linking up with them and checking their page once in a blue moon as it is something I can do at my own leisure, editing out the inconsequential bits that they tend to leave in when involved in face-to-face trips down memory lane. Yet whilst Facebook has proven to be a great way of keeping up to date with my friends all over the world I find myself constantly baffled by some of the friend requests I get. I mean, who the fuck are all these people? Did I really know them? Oh, right... so you were my ex-girlfriends housemates cousins friends uncle who I met for 5 minutes at a houseparty in Wigan in 1996... well, what are we waiting for! Let's be buddies!
(Another aspect I am very careful about is making sure that none of my students - past or present - are buddied with me, something which offends a few of them but I am not prepared to change my mind about... for fuck's sake, if they read some of the comments my friends have left me I would likely find myself out of a job!)
But that's all by-the-by... my half-point is really that for many people we don't stay in touch with there are reasons, even if those reasons are not ones of dislike but simply not being arsed enough. And as nice as it is to catch up and remember the good ol' days with your friends - your REAL friends - do we really want what little time we have left for making new friends and new memories to be eroded away by people and stories we had happily forgotten? And surely none of us want to simply be a contribution to some kid's pathetically sad claim to have a gazillion friends on MySpace... do we?