Like millions of other people, and likely you in particular, I’ve been using Facebook for a little over a year now, but in the last three months, thanks to a few connections from high school and now grade school, I’ve realized that its strongest — and most unexpected — value to me is as a lens through time. Suddenly, a collection of grade school classmates that, if you had asked me 12 months ago, I would have said I would literally never see again, is planning a reunion. A neighborhood friend I had lost contact with around ninth grade, when we moved to a new house, is suddenly once again in my friend list, his daily status updates a reminder of his personality, which I had almost forgotten. We have all lived our independent lives, in most cases within a circle whose circumference, if traced on a Google map, would measure no more than 20 or 30 miles, without running into each other for over two decades, and suddenly the strength of the FB network has drawn us all a touch closer.
The strongest attraction in all of this reconnection has been the remembrance of things past, things that had faded so completely from my memory that I would not have been able to recall them without the prompting of others who were also there. “Wow, I completely forgot about that teacher,” and, “Yes, yes, that day was hysterical!” and, “Jeez, I thought I was the only one who thought that.” Another surprise is how completely other things really are erased. “I have no idea what they are talking about,” or “I don’t remember that kid at all.” To some degree it feels as though my childhood was nothing more than a movie I’ve seen a few hundred times, and despite these repeated viewings it appears that there are scenes I’ve missed, eclipsed by a phone call or a snack break.