I have, just recently, found myself beset by nostalgic reminiscence and, having overcome an initial reluctance to use the internet for such purposes, found myself contacting old friends, largely though social networking sites. It strikes me that my hesitation was founded on the idea that using the internet for such a purpose is uncomfortably akin to lurking, or, even worse, cyber-stalking. Naturally, this is predicated on the idea that the recipients of my initial contact have been totally unaware of my presence during the period prior to that initial contact. What it also demonstrates is, that there is a vast quantity of information on all of us in the virtual world, information that we are often completely ignorant about. I suspect most of it is accumulated for entirely reasonable and innocent reasons, but it is possible to learn an amazing amount about people simply by compiling a few basic details about them. It makes me wonder how much information there is circulating about me. Fortunately a 'vanity search' is not in me, so I've refrained from checking. Worse than discovering that there is a considerable volume of information on me, would be the revelation that there is none! I may well be entirely invisible, a consequence of my insignificance in a vast cosmos of virtual real estate.
It's been nice catching up with old friends and re-acquainting myself with memories and recollections, some of them retreived by virtue of their reminiscences, not mine. It's amazing what people retain and what is discarded. We all have memories that consist of unconscious determinations about the relative importance of one event as opposed to another. Interesting subconscious decisions are taken in maximizing our mental capacity for immediate, or reasonably accessible, recollection. Short-term, medium-term and long-term memory, all are catalogued and placed for comparative ease of retrieval depending on relative importance. Some of my friends have mentioned incidents I'd totally failed to recall. Others have expressed surprise at what I have recalled. A mix of all our memories has assisted in reconstructing a relatively complete recollection of the times we shared. It's been an interesting experience, and, thankfully, it is continuing.
Occasionally a wound from times past is re-openned. Subliminally, there has been an incident that has concerned and depressed me for many years. A friend, a true and honest friend, spurned our friendship on grounds I have been unable to discover. I am genuinely unable to construct any understanding of what caused this absolute and final disconnection, and she is unwilling to enlighten me. I wrote to her in late 2007 and her profile suddenly disappeared from the social networking site I'd located her on. A month later it reappeared, but she didn't ever respond to my email. I suppose I thought she may have mellowed and that whatever had caused her behaviour had subsided, but I suppose some offences are of greater import than others. I really cannot discern what I did to cause the termination of what had been a remarkable and very intensly personal friendship. We shared such intimate details of our lives that I find it difficult to believe that she could simply declare it redundant and walk out of my life. She did that, and more; she left the country, literally two weeks later! Strange how some events cause pain so many years later... it must have been seminal.
So, I fully intend to continue tracing old friends in the hope that I can share mutual reminiscences and re-live some of the joy and freedom of youth. I'm sure it's a pursuit that should be compulsory for everyone. In the modern world it's so easy to disconnect from people we once valued and treasured. Life propels us forward and simple tasks that sustain friendships are set aside in favour of more immediate obligations. Sometimes we have an opportunity to re-acquaint ourselves with those we've lost touch with, and the internet provides the perfect vehicle for doing so. That's not to say that it's possible to use it successfully in every instance, but it's certainly significantly easier for an untrained seeker to locate people than any comparable system prior to its creation. I do recall trying to trace an acquaintance using sundry published information and the task was effectively impossible. Today, I'd be far more likely to succeed. Unfortunately, the person I had been seeking is no longer alive, so any effort now would be futile.
While there are obviously capacities for abuse attendant, the capacity to trace friends and acquaintences is really a very valuable and worthy use for cyberspace; one I'd highly recommend.