Now that I’m back visiting home for a month I know that I’ll run into some people. A few classmates from high school have stayed in and around the area, and some are not that far away. It’s always been a bit of a stomach flip for me, going downtown to run errands or grab lunch, because I don’t know who I’ll run into. In general (especially thanks to Facebook) I’m in touch with everyone from my hometown with whom I want to be in touch. They know when I’m visiting, so we will make plans to meet up.
Everyone else? Yeah, I’m generally not hoping to run into them. Not because they weren’t nice people, or because of anything having to do with them specifically, but because I don’t particularly enjoy small talk. Sure, sometimes I’ll run into someone that I’d lost touch with and am genuinely interested in how life is going with them, but usually not so much. You have between one and three children? Great! Your husband works in sales? Super. Seriously. That’s great. But I don’t really care.
Tonight on the way to pick up dinner I ran into a married couple from my high school. While we aren’t still in touch, I saw them at the reunion last fall and enjoyed talking to them. They’re nice, doing some interesting things, and I don’t find it awkward to talk to them. So that’s good – my first inevitable run-in and it wasn’t painful.
Then I came home to a Facebook message from a woman who is apparently the fiance of a guy I dated when I was 17. He doesn’t have a Facebook account but is trying to track down my college boyfriend – who he used to know – and is doing it via my account. We lost touch when we stopped dating. So that’s a dozen years that have gone by where I have thought of him maybe a handful of times. It’s so strange to me, the double-edged sword that is social networking. Yes, I’ve gotten back in touch with some great people. But me being out there means that people with whom I’ve lost touch (and don’t mind one bit) can contact me.
And that leads to another issue. With an in-person encounter I can at least smile and nod and not be a jerk if I run into someone unexpectedly. It might even be a pleasent experience. But receiving random e-mails and friend requests – especially ones to which I’d just as soon not respond – is somewhat invasive. I don’t want to be rude to anyone, in person or online, but I also haven’t figured out how to nicely “ignore” my cousin or former coworker friend requests, or simply not reply to an e-mail.