broadsideblog

Redheads Re-Found — Facebook's Mid-Life Discoveries

In behavior, Technology on May 12, 2010 at 8:24 am

I heard yesterday from someone I never thought I’d encounter again. He’s had a Big Star career, with degrees from Sciences Po and Oxford and ran a national newspaper — and found me today on Facebook.

“Didn’t you used to be a redhead?” he asked.

Well, yes, for about six months in my 20s, when we both worked at The Globe and Mail, both ferociously ambitious. We weren’t close friends or even distant friends, but such is Facebook and such is life that, like some odd comet circling the heavens every 235th year, people are now finding me again after 20 or 30 years, and vice versa, of late.

While some people, maybe those in their teens or 20s, collect “friends” to reassure them of their popularity, I — like others in my cohort — see it as more useful professionally. I recently spoke on a panel of fellow career journos, about 15 of us, many of them in their 50s, 60s or beyond, to a room full of publicity seekers. We were asked how many of us are on Facebook and almost all of us raised our hands, eliciting a gasp of surprise from the audience. I expected it, no matter what my colleagues’ age.

I’m happy to re-connect with real friends but am also smart enough to recognize the value of the additional social capital of friending people I’m not so fond of or, sometimes, don’t even know. But they know people I like and trust, so, occasionally, I add them. The guy who emailed yesterday had 1,500 friends, among them a writer I need to know.

Et voila.

One of the first FB rediscoveries was also a redhead when we first met, in college, a tall walking muscle of a man hoping to make the U.S. Olympics rowing team. He was gentle and kind and sent me a bouquet of red roses so enormous that I said to the delivery boy “I’m not dead!” We met on a college exchange program, he an American, I Canadian. He was, still is, a lovely man, now on his second (long and happy) marriage. The last time I saw him he was a new Dad, married too young to the wrong woman, and he knew it. It is good to know he is happy and thriving.

Also thanks to FB, I’ve re-found my best friend from when I was eight, now living a four-hour drive away, another lost redhead. We’re both dieting, fighting terrible arthritis, trading memories — some wildly inaccurate, some true — of one another’s parents.

It’s like finding a fly in amber, staring back into those pasts and comparing notes on what we then felt, but were often too young to know or to say. Turns out we know, in common, yet another redhead (I am not making this up; my ‘red’ hair came out of a bottle!) named Kate who knew Becca in Grade 8 and who I met in college and later again in New York.

It’s a little disconcerting — always the case — how much older/different the men look. I wouldn’t have  recognized a few of them. The women, without Botox or surgery, look great and fully themselves.

Who’s been your best (re)-find? Who ‘s found you that you’re happiest about?

  1. Now I see why I’m not on Facebook. Never once with red hair, I’m cast out and forced to wander alone through the weathered world.

  2. It comes in a can, now, you know. Never let the wrong hair color doom you to pariah-ville.

  3. You’d have me resign as mayor?

  4. I was on f/b for little over a month (this past January). I joined because I was badgered for years by my friends. F/b was quickly becoming the primary way people cared to communicate with other people and I wanted to stay in the loop so I caved.

    It took less than a month to realize I did not want all the areas of my life convening on one page. There are just certain groups and certain people that have no business connecting. I really wonder how everyone else copes with it: Parents, siblings, distant family, co-workers, friends, frienemies, super religious folk, super non religious folk, fetish groups or cults you may belong too, people with polar political views who are not shy about tire ironing other people they found on *your* page – publicly (on your page).

    It is like a galactic coalition of things that should not be melded together.

    Needless to say that is just my experience. I recognize it is easier to write a few lines on a social network profile and post it so everyone can see it rather than call 20 people with the same news. I get it.

    I still write letters. I love my fountain pens and antique quills and high quality parchment paper and sealing wax.

  5. evyb, lots of great points here. I was just looking at a friend request — from someone who only knows one of my “friends” and that’s someone I barely know, only because we served on the same volunteer board.

    I find the FB management piece of it weird for the reasons you describe; I’m doing it largely for professional reasons at this point and careful to post chirpy, amusing “news” most of the time that can’t come back to bite me on the ass. I keep personal stuff for letters/messages I sent directly to the people I know. And half the stuff people post is SO boring!

    I also agree that the sensual pleasures of paper, pen, sealing wax are lovely. I write with a fountain pen and have a collection of gorgeous stationery. I recently received a beautiful dove gray card, a thank-you note, from someone I met professionally and it left an enormously positive impression — compared to an impersonal, lazy email.

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