Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al (livredor) wrote,
Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al
livredor

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Down memory lane

Further thoughts about Facebook: there are a lot of things horribly wrong with it, mainly involving its failure to make the transition from a virtual hangout for American college students to a general social networking site. I don't trust the site, but apart from the bits where I think they have an actually malicious business model, the way they do privacy is I think actively harmful through lack of competence; it's not transparent who sees what information, and the default state is ridiculously open while it's complicated and non-intuitive to lock things down. And there's just a lot of stuff which is barely functional, muddled and with no top down vision of how things are supposed to fit together. There's also the problem of fragmentation that Gerv mentions.

By comparison with LJ, it feels a lot more like a silly time waster, than a medium for actual conversation and socializing. And yet, there are people there who not only aren't on LJ, but who aren't really online at all, except accidentally. I can see how it's useful for a kind of virtual version of social grooming, keeping vaguely in touch with people one already knows with a lot less effort than email or blogging. The thing I absolutely love about it is that it has found me a good proportion of the people I've lost over the course of my life. I've been on the site less than a week, and it already beats both Google and FriendsReunited.

Reconnecting with childhood friends has brought on a fit of nostalgia, which I shall discuss behind the cut. I've also been scanning and uploading some of the photos I have from years ago; the instant feedback that Facebook supplies is gratifying.

Between the ages of 5 and 7 my best friend was AA. She was in many ways rather spoiled, being the adored youngest child of an oil magnate and old blood English gentry. She lived in a huge Tudor house and had more toys than any reasonable child could possibly play with. I adored her; I tended to hang around the princessish types, seeing myself in the handmaid or sidekick role. In my imagination, I was plain but my practical sense was indispensable in helping my chosen heroine to deal with the viscissitudes of the world in order to marry the handsome prince in the end. (What happens to the handmaid in happily ever after? It's nice to imagine that the princess gives her an apartment in some unimportant corner of the palace and a reasonable living, after the story forgets about her.)

Anyway, I lost AA when I moved schools at the age of 7. At the time I didn't realize it was a loss; she had two older sisters at the Perse and it was assumed that she would follow me a year or two behind, as her parents didn't approve of such a young child travelling on the train to school by herself. (There was never any doubt that she would meet the stringent academic standards; it was clear that she was the only person in the class who was close to being as academically talented as I was, and besides, she was a princess, it was unthinkable that she would be other than superlative at anything.) Even if I had known the future, I don't think that at that age I really had the means to keep in touch with a former schoolfriend. What actually happened was that her parents divorced suddenly and messily; I was too young to know the details, but the upshot was that her mother took all the children to her ancestral place in Devon, and I lost her altogether. But she showed up on Facebook, more than 20 years later!

My first year at the Perse was pretty miserable. I didn't fit in socially; the class differences were so slight as to be invisible to an outsider, but I was clearly not posh enough by a notch or two. And I was rather a tomboy, though at the time I hated the term, and my physicality and loudness horrified the well brought up young ladies around me. My biggest problem was that my class teacher was tormenting me out of what I can now identify as a weird combination of anti-semitism and intellectual insecurity (in retrospect it's kind of pitiful that an adult would be intellectually threatened by an eight-year-old, though I don't deny that I was a piece of work). Even now writing it down it seems extremely unlikely that any professional would behave that way, and at the time I couldn't get anyone to believe me.

HK took me seriously. She was a couple of years older, and definitely not a princess. We fell into the habit of walking to school together, and HK would horrify me by saying critical things about people in authority. Sometimes we'd get absorbed in conversation or distracted by interesting things on the route, and end up late for school. This led to the headmistress publically berating HK for being a "bad influence" on me. She was a bad influence, but not by making me late for school occasionally (which in all honesty was a lot to do with me not wanting to face my class teacher's sarcasm, mockery or screaming fits). But she was the first person I met who questioned authority for a good reason, and not just to prove how much of a rebel they were, and that was a pretty valuable example.

When I contacted her on FB she admitted that she doesn't really remember me. I'm not surprised, because it's the kind of honesty I'd expect from her and because really, we were only friends for a couple of months at most. But it was important to me at the time, and I'm glad Facebook reminded me of it.
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