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Wednesday, 14 January 2009 14:44

Not a social networking butterfly, but I’m out of the cocoon

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Of course I had HEARD of Facebook. I may be well into the marrow of middle age by now, but I am not completely out of touch with all things modern. I teach in a college, and I’m around young adults every day. If I don’t quiz them about what’s new and hip (which would not include the word “hip,” for example), I do absorb some things by osmosis. I have an iPod for instance, which is easier than carrying around a Walkman, which was easier than carrying around a boombox. As long as the latest technology makes life easier and I can still listen to Neil Young and the Stones on it, I’m all for it.

Still, I saw no reason to get myself a Facebook page, until I caught up briefly with a long lost relative of whom I have always been quite fond, and she suggested that it would be a good way for us to stay in touch, even share photos of the kids and such. I would be able to read her “profile” and see what movies, music, and television shows she was into these days, which is something I have always taken a perverse interest in doing with people I meet, as if the ownership of six John Cougar Mellencamp albums could tell you all you need to know about someone. I know a guy who won’t date a woman unless she likes John Prine, so maybe there is something to it.

I discovered that it is fairly easy to set up a basic Facebook page, especially if you don’t take the time to upload photographs or go into much depth in filling out the profile information. Within minutes, I had myself a profile that can best be described as “rudimentary,” and within an hour, I had my first Facebook friend (my cousin). We exchanged a couple of messages, and I was able to read her profile and see pictures of her, the family, friends, pets, and so forth. Although she suggested that I at least put up a photograph and add a little bit of information to my profile, I really had no intentions of doing anything else with my Facebook page. I had accomplished my mission of catching up with my cousin and establishing a pathway for future contact, and that was all I wanted or expected.

Then a strange and wonderful thing happened. I got a message from Robin. Now, as it happens, my wife and I had just been at my mom’s house a few weeks back, and mom had found some old keepsakes of mine in the attic, including a folder with several essays written by a bunch of fifth-graders. The essays were about me, because I was “Student Of The Week” that particular week in October of 1972. Not only was there an essay written by Robin, there were several others that mentioned Robin. Evidently, we were something of an item, at least so far as I could decode the murky symbolism of grade school romance.

Now, 37 years later, Robin lives in Pittsburgh and her children are grown. Before we had exchanged two messages, I had messages from four or five other classmates, none of whom I had seen or heard from in years, even decades. By the end of the week, we were having a cyber class reunion, with messages flying in all directions.

Finally, just last week, I got a message from a fellow named Thomas. He wanted to know if I was the same guy that taught English at Appalachian State in 1988. I recognized his name right away. He had been one of my favorite students, the type of student who is a class clown, but is secretly very smart and serious about school, so long as you don’t blow his cover. Because I ended up getting another job and moving away a couple of years after I taught his class, I didn’t know that he went on to graduate from ASU with a major in English. He now lives in Concord with his wife and two children, and he has become an endurance athlete. He says he is coming to Asheville on business sometime this spring, and we are going to find some time to meet for lunch while he is here.

One of my former classmates, Jerry, is up to 660 Facebook friends. My 15 pales in comparison, but I am so inspired by my collection of new/old friends, that I finally did put up a photo — of my son — and a video of both my kids singing “Yellow Submarine,” which is getting good reviews so far.

Maybe I will put up a few more photos, or post an inspirational quote or two. I obviously need to spruce the place up a bit, since you never know who might drop in for a visit.

(Chris Cox is a teacher and writer who lives in Waynesville. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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