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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Don't Remember You, But Your Facebook Rings a Bell

If you’ve ever wondered what happened to that summer camp love from across the lake or that girl you met on the beach during a family trip to the shore, look no further than Internet Social Interaction Sites. In a world dominated by technology, the ability to find anyone, anywhere, is entirely possible without working for the government or as a private investigator. All one needs is a few pieces of information and they can let the Internet do the crawling.

The world, as we know it, is shrinking. People are connected to each other in more ways over the Internet than they are in real life. In an odd twist of fate, the world seemed to be moving away from social interaction by inventing new ways to be anonymous. Message boards, chat rooms, and the advent of email nearly stole every last drop of emotion and personality from interactions. We could hide behind our keyboards and avatars and just type away. But with the acceptance of sites like MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, Friendster, and Facebook, even at the corporate level, the prospect of being anonymous is disappearing faster than unregistered Internet domain names.

I possess a somewhat odd eidetic memory. While I can’t recall that my wife just asked me to take out the trash, I can remember someone that I met 20 years ago by name, face, and various personality traits as vividly as if I met them a week ago. Some memories are just burned into my subconscious like the high score screen of a Pac-Man game is burned into the monitor. Sometimes, I do forget a few details but, for the most part, I’m fairly accurate. I can remember songs on the radio, weather conditions, all the minutiae that surrounds a particular event. It is quite frustrating when I can remember these things but others have no idea what I’m talking about.

In the case of people, I can remember someone I may have just met for a moment. Not everyone knows or remembers who I am, although most people who meet me for the first time say I remind them of someone they have known all their life. A few details given about the relationship sparks their memory, or at least their politeness as they lie and say they remember me. Most often, because of what sounds like an uncommon last name, I am constantly asked if I am related to someone they know. There are a few rare cases which are the exception to the rule but I am usually never related to their person they are referring to.

So, now here we are at the end of the first decade of the 21st century and I’ve probably met close to 25,000 individuals, in person, over the course of 34 years. That’s not counting online friends or people I’ve spoken to in groups. Now, I’ve seriously whittled down the frequency over the years since college. I would say there was a brief spike when I manned the phones of a call center because in actuality there were relationships established due to the nature of the business. But think of it. The normal everyday person probably meets close to 60,000 people in their lifetime. How do you expect to remember even a tenth of that?

During my life, I have attempted to keep in touch with numerous people that I made friends with in college or at work. I spent four summers working in amusement parks. Five years in college which consisted of two different universities. I’ve been on vacation to various beaches along the Eastern United States and I’ve worked at various jobs in different cities across the South Western corner of the state. Those, that I’ve had the pleasure of calling a friend, have scattered to the four winds or married. Yet, thanks to my memory and a little help from the Internet, I’ve managed to find some of them. Again, it takes a little jogging of their memory, because quite frankly, I’m just an oddball with a weird ability to recall people. It would be arrogant to think that I made a lasting impression on anyone, especially after only meeting them for a day or a week. Still, memory being what it is, I’ve sought them out and added them as friends on Facebook.

There are some that I attended school with for only a semester. I worked in a scene shop for three months during my Freshman year of college and to pass the time I carried on a sort of pre Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon type game with a guy who introduced me to my first college beer, Reservoir Dogs, and an awesome three tiered grilled cheese sandwich at a local pub in Myrtle Beach. He now works in the Southwest. I’ve also found at least ten others from my days there. All of them only knew me for a semester and that was 15 years ago.

I have a few friends from my Amusement Park days. One, is probably the coolest gal I’ve ever met. I’m not sure she understands her coolness factor or perhaps she does and is modest about it. I had a particularly rough summer my second year, the product of working there with someone I was dating. To make a long story short, my girlfriend took off for three days with some guy and I was a bit upset. She found me alone in a bar, drinking and playing with those trivia boxes. Now, for whatever reason, she felt the need to saddle up at the table and keep me company, ultimately forced to listen to my sob story. She could have been at anywhere else having drinks bought for her by better looking and cooler guys than me, yet she sat there while I wallowed in my own stupidity. I hadn’t spoken to her in 10 years. We now rib each other with pop culture idiosyncrasies associated with our status updates.

The two newest friends in my arsenal are a couple of girls I met while vacationing in Myrtle Beach as a teenager. It was one of those weird things where myself and a friend kind of just became part of a group of kids who hung out together during the week one year and by some stroke of fate ended up staying in the same group of condos the next year. I kept in touch for a little bit through letters and pictures but we all grew up and eventually the letters stopped coming and going. I never forgot their names and happened to find them just after the new year. I haven’t spoken to them in nearly 20 years.

Most of my friends on Facebook are people I went to high school or college with over the years. A few are from previous work related relationships. There are those oddball ones that thought I was someone else and added me as a friend, not realizing I wasn’t who they thought I was. It’s here I find the few quirks with my memory as I may or may not have ever met them, but have accepted their friend request out of shame for not remembering them if I have.

I have to date, 164 friends on Facebook and I probably speak with about 12 with any great frequency. The others are those who I’ve reconnected with and then that’s it. There have been some back and forth “pokes” or green patch requests. I’ve had a few mob wars invitations and some flair exchange hands but for the most part, I’m just a notch on their friend wall. It almost seems common practice or courtesy to accept a friend request from anyone. This might be the reason I’m friends with the lead singer of a local rock band, who just happened to graduate with my sister from high school, and an actress/comedian known for her innuendo laden phrases as a spa manager on one show and the host of another on HGTV.

The oddest turn of events on Facebook has been how people in various aspects of my past seem to know each other as witnessed on my news feed as they exchange wall posts or gifts. A girl I met through another friend’s girlfriend at a local university happens to be friends with a guy I work with, currently. I met each of them almost a decade apart and unknown to the other. Oddly enough, the one, I met before I met my wife, the other went to high school with her. Another friend, who I met in my days as an Amusement Park worker is a friend of and former classmate of a girl who I worked with until a couple years ago. Again, you’re talking almost ten years between the time I met one to the other and they already knew one another.

I find this phenomenon crazy because it just goes to show how truly small this world is. Granted, this covers people I’ve met in a geographic radius of less than 40 miles but to give further credence to this concept, consider this. My first semester of college was spent in Myrtle Beach. During that time I became friends with a girl, who lived right down the hall from me. She grew up in upstate New York and was childhood friends with a cousin of mine. This same cousin is the son of the guy who was the source of The Baseball Story. To tie this all together, I happen to be able include myself as a degree of Kevin Bacon. I was an extra in Sudden Death which starred Jean-Claude Van Damme. He was in Bloodsport with Victor Wong, who was in Tremors with Kevin Bacon. There you have it. Now, if I could get on Kevin Bacon’s list of friends on Facebook, I’d be connected to everyone in the world. That’s a lofty goal for a guy who can’t remember to put the lid back on the Rice Krispie Treats container, as evidenced by the call I just got from my wife.

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