The Facebook Effect

At some point a few months into the pandemic, some of my friends from high school decided that we should have a mini-reunion over Zoom. We fell into a routine of meeting every other Thursday night.

Until I moved in summer of 2019, I lived within an hour of three of the people on the call, and I saw them somewhat to very frequently. Another friend lives far away, but near my husband’s family, so I’d see him once or twice a year. It was never odd chatting with those four friends.

What has been odd is the resurfacing of people I hadn’t seen. It’s not that I forgot about them—they were memorable, and also, Facebook—but it’s weird to have routine chats with people you haven’t seen in person in a decade or more.

There is someone else I had once been good friends with, more after high school than in high school. Sam was three years ahead of me, and while we had friends in common, I didn’t know him well.

I withdrew from college spring semester of my freshman year. I went home to my parents. Sam and I might have been the only people in our social circle not away at school. Sam had always treated me like an annoying kid sister, but that spring and summer, I ended up morphing into the kid sister who has grown up and has some interesting thoughts. In the years that followed we kept in touch, even as we both moved around to different places.

A dozen years later, I was living alone in a city where I knew no one. I was working incredibly hard as the sole staff member in the library of an infuriatingly under-resourced school. I ended up in the hospital. Sam had some time off between the end of one job and the beginning of the next, so he came to look after me for two weeks.

It wasn’t that I had no one—my mother had come immediately when I called from the hospital and told her I was going to be admitted. The doctors didn’t want me home alone after discharge—for some reason that I can’t recall, my mom couldn’t stay that long. My now-husband Ed offered to come but he had just started a job several states away, and I did not want him to miss work, I remember that. Everyone was relived when Sam said he could come.

I appreciated his help during that time. That school year eventually ended, and I moved on to a new job closer to Ed and a number of other friends. I saw Sam once as he was passing through town, and then he settled—as much as he could settle, back then—far away.

A few months later, I heard from him that he had reconnected over Facebook with a woman he had dated in high school. I’d had classes in high school with Claire, and we’d ended up at the same college and in the same small program. We’d never been friends despite our proximity, but I couldn’t remember why.

I was a little alarmed when a few days later Sam emailed to say that he had decided to move across the county to live with Claire. A friend of my mother’s had found a high school boyfriend on Facebook and they’d gotten married shortly after meeting again. These people were in their seventies, and had likely changed more than Sam and Claire, but their marriage had gone very bad very fast.

A few months later, an event at Claire’s and my college was announced. I planned to attend, and to bring Ed, and I thought Claire might be coming with Sam. I decided to send her a Facebook message.

She wrote back to say that no, they would not be attending. “Sam and I are planning a very small wedding in May, and we need to save money for that.”

“OK, Claire,” I remember thinking, “I hear you. Loud and clear.”

I wasn’t invited to their wedding, of course. I sent a gift when their first child was born. It was not acknowledged.

Ed and I did see them once, at a backyard picnic at someone’s parents’ lake house. Ed and I had been the last two through the buffet, and when we went to sit down, the only seats available were at opposite ends of a very long table.

Ed sat next to Claire. I know, because once we were on our way home, I was about to say that I must have misjudged Claire as she seemed perfectly nice, but before I could open my mouth, Ed said, “You were right about that Claire Delaney. She is THE WORST.”

When Ed and I became engaged, I thought about sending them an invitation, but I was afraid it might be seen as a gift solicitation.

I heard from Sam after I shared wedding pictures on Facebook. He messaged something about his invitation being lost in the mail and sounded a little hurt. I was a bit bewildered—I had thought we weren’t that kind of friends anymore.

And then I didn’t hear from him again. And the night of that first Zoom call, just about a year ago, I hadn’t heard his voice since that day at the lake.

3 thoughts on “The Facebook Effect

  1. Sometimes the Facebook effect — good name for it — plays out differently. Sometimes cyber serendipity, sometimes not. The ones you really miss are a treat to find (or be found by) again.

    Before Facebook, there were web searches, similar but not in the category. The Facebook effect is sui generis, an intriguing topic prompt and perhaps even a subgenre.


  2. This friendship story takes so many interesting turns that I was eager to keep reading to find out how things eventually turn out. That you are ‘bewildered’ by the end makes sense. When people fade in and out of our lives over time, how we connect will vary depending on context. Your example truly bears that out. Glad I tuned in for this slice.


  3. I alternate between liking Facebook, mostly because I see lots of pictures of my granddaughter, and really not liking it, because my life feels so ordinary and boring and everyone else’s seems so interesting. And there have definitely been some weird post high school hookups! I want to hear more about Ed and Claire– it seems like there will be more to this story.


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