Thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, my international communications have flourished over the past five years.
It was the year 2006. Many of my older friends had graduated and I was left in the dusty hallways of our high school to fend for my lonely, 16-year-old self. Missing them terribly, I started my own Facebook account to stay in touch with my older comrades. Back then, Facebook was pretty much a college kid thing to do. I was a bit leery at first to sail in such uncharted territory reserved for more mature participants, but I threw my qualms aside and joined this social network so I could “stay connected” with my beloved friends. I was the second child in my high school to create an account.
After joining this virtual world of status updates and friendly profile-stalking, I soon found a new calling: creating groups. I made various groups that year, two of them for outcasts of society (Strawberry Blondes), one titled “Pizzaholics Anonymous (PA),” and a group dedicated to Zorro which reached over 1,200 members at one point. I also joined random groups like, “Stuffed Animals are Your Friends,” “I Still Can’t Find Waldo” and “I’m a Fermata… Hold Me.”
That was where it all began. That was when my long list of virtual friends started to accumulate. In my overly sociable and curious state of teenhood, I managed to befriend people from Germany, Brazil, Italy, Turkey and other countries.
Many are aware of my menagerie of, as one of my friends titled them, “e-friends.” Joseph was the first internet friend I made. I added the Canadian tennis player after he joined my Zorro group and caught my eye with his witty remarks he had posted on the group’s wall. He then invited me to his “I don’t know you, but I really like pancakes” group. We’ve been virtual friends ever since. In fact, we Skyped for the first time last week. After being Facebook pals for five years that webcam-to-webcam chat was long overdue.
Later that very same year my gregarious cyber self was introduced to a German man named Sascha. He was mutual friends with an exchange student I had known. Since I thought he was cute I asked him to be my newest friend. Our light flirting over MSN messenger spanned across four years of broken-up English and the level two German I took in high school. I like to think that his modeling career took off because of my unwavering encouragement.
Cem and I started our friendship in a different manner. I actually met him in person, and I even met him before we added each other on Facebook. While I was playing the piano at a resort on Pelican Lake, this handsome Turk walked into the room to hear me play “Clair de Lune.” Conversation soon took flight. After spending one afternoon and evening talking to the man, I’ve never seen him again. Thankfully, the World Wide Web has helped us stay in touch. He is now engaged to a beautiful woman and is serving his required 6-month term in the military. A 2012 wedding is planned. I better receive an invitation.
Social networking sites have allowed people to make friends they will never have to face in person. I have only grazed the surface of my collection of e-friends I’ve acquired over the years. However, these “friends” will never be able to meet me for a chat over a cup of coffee. Instead, I’ll be eating a taco and doing homework while we chat by way of keyboard with minutes of time lapses in-between each sentence. Oh, the thrill of it all!
Being a sort of ambassador of conversation with unknown people can be rather fun, but it has grown stale in recent years. I suppose I’ve already grown out of that phase of my life, for now anyway.
(Published March 10, 2011 in MSUM’s campus newspaper, The Advocate.)