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Bringing the Past to the Present on Facebook

I've found lots of friends I haven't seen in years, including many who I grew up with in Watertown.

I had always resisted signing up for Facebook because I figured it would end up taking up too much of my time. I finally relented and went on board after a couple of my cousins who I never see requested that I sign up. I thought it would give me a better opportunity to stay in touch with them, and it did. It turned out I was also right about it taking up too much of my time, but I'm still glad I signed up because it has enabled me to catch up with a number of folks I hadn't seen or talked to in years.

The wonderful thing about Facebook is being able to stay in touch with people I've known from different times and places in my life. I have Facebook friends from high school, college, church, a longtime workplace, political activity, and my days involved in the local music scene.

I also keep up with people who I've 'met' online in political discussion groups and bird email lists. When you spend a lot of time online participating in groups mirroring your interests, you end up seeing many of the same people throughout the years and some folks you've never met become friends of a sort. Although the folks I 'met' are people  from throughout the U.S. and Canada, I've had the pleasure of actually meeting some in person.

Seeing old friends and 'talking' to them online often does tend toward the superficial, but it's still nice to keep up with people's lives, to know what they're doing these days. Although I'm sometimes reading about a trivial thing like what someone cooked for dinner, other times I'm finding out about a significant event in a friend's life. I've seen people get married and get divorced (sometimes the same people doing both). I've seen new jobs, new grandchildren, illnesses. I found out that two people I know are now living in Hawaii. Just recently I was saddened to learn that a man I knew had lost his battle with cancer and died.

I've 'met' new people, friends of friends, who I encountered in online conversations.  There's also a group of us who listen to WBCN: Free Form Rock, the rebirth of the beloved Boston rock station of old that is now streaming online and broadcasting on HD radio (at 100.7-HD3). Though usually programmed, the current station has a couple of shows with live DJs who take requests on Facebook. While making requests, we regular listeners often chat about music as well. (The live broadcast currently is from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, though there will be more live hours in the near future.)

I've also found even more evidence that it's a small world. It turns out that someone I met online through an old friend used to know my boyfriend when they were both in local rock bands back in the day. And someone who I know from the 'BCN group used to work with a woman who was one of my friends in college.

Yes, Facebook does mean too much of one's social life is spent sitting alone at the computer, but connections spill into the real world as well. I 'found' a friend I hadn't seen in 30 years, and we now get together every month or so. I've also gone out a couple of times with another friend I hadn't seen in about 20 years.

Watertown has a good presence on Facebook, and I've found a number my old classmates from Watertown High. My high school class has a page there, and I wouldn't be surprised if other classes do as well. Some people have posted photos from our class reunions, and others have posted our class pictures from the Hosmer School.

I've also had the opportunity to get together with some old friends from school. In a previous column, I mentioned getting back in touch with Ann Labadini Hamel not long before she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Many of us from our class came together to see her several months before she died.

I send my Patch column to my former classmates, who often remember things I'm writing about. We've often had interesting discussions, sharing memories of growing up in Watertown.

Facebook includes other pages involving Watertown, including one for this publication. But I'd say my favorite is  probably "You know you're a Watertown townie if..." The page mentions a number of things from Watertown's past, such as the rotary in Watertown Square, Lanno's, Gorin's Department Store, and the original Star Market. It's a fun page that brings back memories for those of us who lived in this town many years ago.

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