Can social media ruin memories?

The great thing about social media? You can reconnect with long lost friends. The bad thing about social media? You can reconnect with long lost friends.

I recently hunted down a friend I had in high school whom I absolutely adored. He was funny, smart, and the reason I have lots of good memories from my senior year of high school. He was a platonic friend; someone who brought out the best in me, made me laugh, and always served up a good time.

I finally found him on LinkedIn (after many unsuccessful searches in the past) and sent him a note. I was my usual smart aleck, yet bubbly self. He responded and we traded a few brief emails, and I suggested that we catch up on the phone. No answer. Months passed and I dropped him a note to follow-up. I told him how much I was eager to hear about his life (according to his LinkedIn account, he's done some amazing stuff) and jokingly called him Mr. Flaky Flake for not responding.

Now, this is someone who was a grade-A sarcastic prankster when I knew him. Always flip, funny, and unflappable. However, after I joked with him (as I always did), he got very defensive and called me harsh. Very methodically citing his obligations and how he had been busy. So much for picking up where we had left off. This was very obviously not the same person I knew in high school. What a bummer.

Now, instead of remembering all the great times we had in school, I think of how serious he's become. I mean, I've grown up too, but my personality remains intact. Seventeen-year-old Amber is still in me, being silly and joking with those who really get me.

I looked for this guy for years before I finally got ahold of him. And my reward? I now think he's a fuddy duddy. Way to blow a bunch of good memories, Amber!

With all the great social media platforms out there, we can now track down almost anyone. Nobody is further than a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google search away. That's pretty neat. But, the question is: can reconnecting with people after so many years actually ruin the good memories we had about them?

Have you ever reconnected with someone online and wish you hadn't? How about friending someone whom you've quickly discovered that you've outgrown? Are some people better left in the past?

44 comments:

  1. Cautionary tale if there EVER was one. I know folks are looking me up and while I might not have changed much/or maybe I have based on their perceptions of me back in the day. If you haven't been in touch with someone for THAT long, you have know  there is a reason for it.

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  2. I honestly believe that some people are best left in the past. One of my life lessons is; It is better to spend one day, one week, one month, one year with a soul mate than no time at all. Some people make appearances in our lives, and others meant to go the distance. 

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  3. Hey Todd!

    Honestly, I've changed in some MAJOR ways since high school. My personality is the same, though. I love to exchange witty banter with people and I've always been sarcastic. I could have called him Mr. Flaky Flake in the past and he would thrown something right back at me. I loved that back and forth we had.

    And what do you mean, THAT long???? I'm 24 and sticking, my friend. ;-)

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  4. Very true, Susan.

    I guess with the internet comes with the temptation to reconnect with some great people you've lost contact with over the years (at least it does to me). Obviously, I was more eager to catch up with him than he was to catch up with me. Can you imagine???? ;-)

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  5. Clearly, I was not referring to YOU.
    In my experience, sarcasm goes by the way side for a lot of people sadly.

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  6. It goes away? That's just crazy talk.

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  7. Another thing about social media is that you can form and end a relationship before you even meet the person - that's scary!

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  8. He clearly doesn't know what a shining personality he is missing! 

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  9. I agree. Sarcasm should not go away. It's one of the finer arts. ;-) I think I've become more sarcastic during the past few years. It's the inevitable result of spending too much time in the English department. All that dry humor and wit. I know I'm very different from the person I was in high school, although I don't think it's a personality thing. That's remained intact; it's just been allowed to flourish. I've become more me, if that makes sense.

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  10. It makes complete sense. I've evolved as a person, but my core personality is the same. Sounds like we're in the same boat ;-)

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  11. You jumped the gun thanking me for my comment, but now I am back. 

    Through Classmates.com and then Facebook, I have re-discovered many from my past. I grew up in a small town where everybody knew everybody and moved away after 9th grade. I always had that 'what ever happened to' curiosity so I went to their 30 yr reunion. Whereas it was a hoot and it was great to catch up w/ many and see how much they changed; I really don't think you can go home again. 

    My elementary school girlfriend who I adored was there as well. Other than a few years on us, I didn't think she had changed much. However, her life story had a few twists and turns and even though it was nice to 'catch up', she kind of turned into a social stalker. I was afraid to get on Facebook for awhile. 

    At least for me, I think some of these memories are best left in the past. 

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  12. You're right. Original thank you rescinded. New thank you offered.

    You're so right. You can't go home again. I guess there's a few people in my life that I've had so much fun with I guess I hoped to have that same chemistry. I suppose my case of arrested development doesn't translate to everyone. Go figure.

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  13. Interesting post, Amber. I've reconnected via social media with people I knew from preschool through college and I think we were all disappointed. :) Although I have lots of good memories of my old friends, it's hard to re-establish or build connections with them when the things that brought us together in the first place are no longer relevant or when our current lives are so different. Like Bill, I believe that one can't go home again, although it would be nice...

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  14. Amber, aloha. Interesting topic and I can certainly understand how it can happen. How disappointing for you to find he was not what you remembered and how much better if your great memories had remained intact.

    Unlike you I have not gone searching for anyone so I have not had that experience.  That being said, I have heard from others who, like you, were not so happy that they connected with someone from the past.

    Over the years, outside of social media, I certainly have found people  I have outgrown.  Hopefully, most of us grow and expand ourselves while retaining the "seventeen-year old Amber" inside of us.  Those folks I have outgrown were those who shrank their worlds rather than expanded them. They become so "small" in their thinking that if you do not fit or conform to how they think it should be, there is no room for anything else.

    If I were to come across an "old friend" most likely I would check out their fb page & twitter stream before jumping into the conversation.

    Wishing you a Mele Kalikimaka.  Aloha.  Janet

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  15. Well said, Karen. I think you're probably right. Lesson learned.

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  16. Very interesting comment, Janet. Checking them out online before responding, huh? That's actually a pretty smart idea.

    In this case, however, I was so fascinated by what I saw online I was incredibly eager to hear everything that had been going on that lead him to where he is today. However, your point remains a good one. It's smart detective work. I like it! ;-)

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  17. Thought-provoking post, Amber. I don't have any online-reconnection-gone-wrong stories to add here, but I believe that situations like this are one of the reasons I'm one of the 11 Earthlings who aren't on Facebook. 

    I've never attempted to hide online (I have a website, I'm on Twitter, Flickr, & LinkedIn, & I made an early decision to always post/comment under my real name). But something has always kept me away from the social network that would easily put me back in touch with the biggest number of names & faces from "the old days." 

    I'm sure I've missed out on some excellent conversations, & I definitely have those "wonder whatever happened to ___" moments -- but somewhere along the line I guess I decided that I'd let my memories just be memories ...

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  18. Well, it's not an easy lesson, that's for sure. I think that's why it's a rare thing to have good friends that have withstood time and life. :)

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  19. You're a wise man, Hugh C. McBride. A wise one, indeed.

    I'm actually only friends with one former classmate on Facebook. Honestly, in most cases I have no desire to go backwards and reminisce. There are just a few people who I just loved in my childhood who I've tried to find. This guy was one of them.

    I think I'll take your advice and let my memories be just memories ;-)

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  20. Interesting post.  I have discovered that it can be just the opposite, as well.  People who were no more just acquaintances back in the day, are now behaving as though we were best buds. People dynamics are fascinating, and nowhere more so than online. I often say, "Online, its a weird, weird, world."  Sorry about your altered memories...   :-)

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  21. Interesting, Teresa. I can't say I've reconnected with any acquaintances. However, that reminds me of the last episode of The Big Bang Theory where a guy who bullied Leonard in school wants to friend him on Facebook.

    I concur with you, though. The online world can certainly be interesting!

    Thanks for the condolences and for sharing your thoughts!

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  22. That was genuine! But if you want sarcasm, I can battle with the best. 

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  23. I saw that episode! Totally related as I was always picked on, too.

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  24. The opposite also holds true as I've reconnected with many old "friends" from my days growing up in the Bronx who I would have bet a shiny new nickel wouldn't amount to a hill of beans in life and have been pleasantly surprised to see them doing rather well.
    I've even run into some people who used to be school bullies who are now religious family men(!)
    But, as you point out here, I have also been disappointed...
    Nicely written.

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  25. Oh I love this story Amber.  I'm sad for your disappointing realization over your friend but, I think we can all relate to this experience.  It's like Thomas Wolfe wrote " You Can't Go Home Again".  I think, regardless of whether social media existed or not, there is truth to that statement...you really can't resurrect the experiences or the feelings that were had at another time in our life.  And, that, I think, is good news.  Because, if we could continually resurrect those wonderful memories and experiences, we would never move forward and appreciate the experiences that we have right in front of us.  I know for myself, I sometimes would like to recapture some moments from my past because they bring me feelings of comfort...of safety....of innocence. Similar perhaps to the feelings that you recollected of your experiences with your friend.  But time, as it should, changes all of us and, even though you think that you are the same Amber now as 17 year old Amber, chances are, you are not.  At least, not as much as you think.  I, too, have reconnected (thanks to FB) with a good number of friends from my past.  I have only hung out with a couple of them and, I am happy to say, resurrecting those few friendships has turned out to be a great joy.  But, I also see in the many other reconnections how much we have all changed and how our lives have taken us on such diverse and dissimilar paths.  It is all very interesting but, I am sure that they, like me, are perfectly happy with the road that they are on and, for the most part, don't have the time or inclination to revisit our relationship. 
    What a GREAT post, Amber...so insightful and so timely!  
    Hope you are having a stress free approach to the holidays!!
    xo
    Claudia

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  26. Leonard had the last laugh, though, huh? It's usually a matter of peaking in high school or peaking as an adult, isn't it?

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  27. Well, hello! Thanks for stopping by, Dan.

    Yes, true. This isn't the case 100% of the time. I think I'm about 50-50 on the success ratio when it comes to reconnecting. The failed connections usually range from major disappointment to not even recognizing who the person has become. I guess it depends who the person was in your life as to whether it's smart to take the risk.

    Thanks for adding to the discussion, Dan!

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  28. Thanks for the thoughtful response, Claudia.

    I am a very different Amber in many very significant ways. You're absolutely correct. However when it comes to my personality, especially around those who really know me, I'm pretty much the same. Sarcastic and silly. Love to banter and use word play. Seizing any opportunity to use a pun and to go for a laugh.

    Considering my initial reconnection with this person was very superficial, it was only my personality that came through since we never even got into the what we've been up to where we are now phase. I guess that was enough to send him running for the hills ;-) Oh well. You can't please everyone!

    And, you're right. You can't go home. I just, sometimes, wish I had a time machine for an occasional visit, that's all ;-)

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  29. That was painful. Who can say what was going on with him when he responded that way? Frankly, I'm not sure I'd want to reach back into the past and rekindle relationships. People do change a lot! I hate the feeling of disappointment - I'd also hate to disappoint someone else who tracked me down and realized I'm quite different. Social media isn't bad in itself - it does allow a person to find out whether relationships are worth keeping or not.

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  30. Hi Jean, thanks for adding to the discussion.

    Frankly, I was pretty stunned to be called harsh. Number one, because I wasn't in the least. Number two, because the name was obviously a joke that, at least, the younger version of the guy would have understood.

    As for social media being a tool to determine if relationships are worth keeping, I have to say there's something to that. With people sharing every, single occurrence in their lives, you certainly get to know people much better much more quickly these days. Things that may not ever come up in conversation are readily put in a tweet or a Facebook wall posting, that's for sure!

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  31. I have to add that while interacting with young people online--college friends of my daughter, friends of my two sons as well, that I have learned a new word that their generation uses to define certain online relationships, "Frienemies?"   I have learned a lot about etiquette for online interactions from the younger group...and I don't think that theirs is the same as my version of online etiquette...  :-)

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  32. Hmm... This is a tough one. I just don't know what to say. I feel bad that you two had what sounds like an unfortunate exchange. If I had to guess, it's the result of a bad day on the other end (nothing personal). 

    As for me? I haven't really connected with old high school or elementary school friends. We've all just gone our separate ways. There's one or two individuals whom I chat with every now and then, and heck, we're even "friends" on Facebook. But we just don't talk. We've connected over coffee/lunch once or twice, but that's about it. We definitely hung out a lot more way back in the day. 

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  33. Ha ha. The irony of Facebook, right? You can be friends with someone but never talk with them!

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  34. Social media reconnected me with people I love, memories that I treasure and a few moments that I still loathe. Joy to the world and all that rot. ;)

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  35. It is true that social media playing an important role to connect
    with your friends and making new friends also, but in my opinion it is
    also changing the trends of friendship because we like to meet our
    friend on social media sites, but we don't have time to meet them
    face-to-face.

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  36. Interesting comment. Yes, the way we develop friendships is changing, isn't it? Turning that online connection into an IRL (in real life) makes all the difference, though.

    It's great when you can meet someone at a conference or networking event and take the relationship to the next level!

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  37. Two of my classmates from 35 years ago connected to me about 18 months ago via Facebook which lead me to become re-acquainted with others from my class/year too.  I'm really impressed by the achievements people have made over the years and its been fun to get to know them again.  No negative experiences to date, in fact its been an absolute joy to know them again as some of us are going through similar experiences that life throws at people in my age group.  When I went back to the UK recently I met up with them, if it wasn't for social media we may never have re-connected as I am on the other side of the world to them now.  I really regret loosing contact with a lot of people but there were circumstances at the time.  There are still more people I would like to reconnect with, maybe curiosity is getting the better of me, not really sure of the reason why, could be old age (!).

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  38. Great success story, Steven! For every bad experience, there's a good one, too, huh?

    Glad to hear you were able to reconnect, visit in person, and enjoy catching up. That's neat ;-)

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