Sunday, March 22, 2009

Facebook is Magic

I am sure you have heard Arthur C Clarke's famous quote “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” I recently signed up for Facebook, and received a powerful demonstration of this principle at work.

When you first sign up, it asks you for an email address. I gave it my Gmail account, and so it went into my address book and found eveyone I had ever sent an email to who used that email address for their Facebook account. Then it prompted me with a list of about 50 people I might want to add as friends. So I choose from this list, then went on with the sign up. I told it were I worked and where I graduated from school, and it gave me another round of recommendations for friends I might want to add.

Then the magic part happened. It seems like it looked at all the people I wanted wanted to add, and looked at all their friends, to search for friends they had in common. Then it started kicking out recommendations from that list. This is where I started to see the names of people I hadn't thought about in 20 years. For example, I was in a band in High School. Of the four other guys in that band, I had only stayed in contact with one of them. A week after I joined Facebook I was back in contact with two more, and they each know how to reach the fourth one. And so we are seriously discussing getting the band back together for a one time reunion show.

This is very interesting to me. Sometimes I feel as though I have worked hard to distance myself from my past, but then Facebook works to bridge the gap I built. There is a sort of almost artificial nostalgia to seeing photographs of yourself and your friends from decades past. It is almost an instinctual reaction to be attracted to the beautiful youths shown in the photos, and it is charming to see yourself among them. But at the same time, not all of the memories from that time are particularly happy. Sometimes you get friend requests from people, and you take a long while deciding what to do.

I am not as good about expressing these mixed feelings as I would like to be, so I am linking to an article by Lissa Soep at NPR called “Facebook And The Over-30 Crowd. If you would like to read more about this, her article is a great place to start.