If I had unlimited time and even more unlimited funds, I swear I would write a book about the psychology of Facebook. Maybe such a book has already been written … but regardless, I just find the whole Facebook phenomenon fascinating on so many levels. And even though it’s only been in existence for five years, it’s really been around in different forms for much longer.
As a teenager, I had a pile of pen pals. We found each other through “Friendship Books” and “Slams” – small handmade books, stapled together, adorned with stickers. Some were simple, others wildly elaborate. They arrived in the mail, accompanied by long, handwritten letters, missives about the drudgery of school, of boyfriends loved and lost, of parents, of cliques. Of music that I thought too cool – Depeche Mode, INXS, Simple Minds, The Psychedelic Furs. The idea behind the FBs and Slams was that you would receive one from a pen-pal, who had received it from one of her pen-pals. To every corner of the country and the globe the FBs and Slams traveled, allowing you to become friends with someone you had common interests with.
I lived for those letters and the envelopes stuffed with Slams and FBs that required extra postage. On the rare occasion, I would be allowed to make a long-distance phone call to a pen-pal, usually to wish her a happy birthday. We had parental-imposed time constraints on these cross-country calls.
And then, most of the pen-pals faded into the busy-ness of high school, of college, and the FBs and Slams disappeared. Letters became fewer and fewer. One pen pal and I took to exchanging cassette tapes, and the written missives turned into verbal monologues about the drudgery of school, of boyfriends loved and lost, of parents, of cliques. We interspersed our ramblings with recordings of our favorite songs. And then, as careers took hold and our lives became entwined with those who would become our boyfriends, our husbands, our ex’s, the letters became yearly Christmas cards and updates.
And now, our emails have also gone the way of the letters. I’ve kept in touch with four of my pen pals, three of whom are on Facebook. We’ve become teenagers again, sending each other daily status updates and videos and links. We’re doing the “25 Random Things,” just as we did in the Friendship Books of long ago.
One of my pen pals, who I have actually kept in touch with, is recovering after a prolonged, complicated, medically-bungled illness. Tonight, she accepted my Friend request and among the groups she belongs to was “I Had Pen Pals in the 80s and Swapped FBs and Slams.” Eagerly, I clicked through the list of members to see if there was anyone I recognized.
There was. And now, we are Friends. Just like that.
Like yesterday once more.