By Dom Cioffi
Prior to Facebook, a person could easily lose track of a childhood friend or high school romance.
Personally, I have reconnected with several individuals who, had it not been for social media, would have likely remained locked in the “Where Are They Now” file for the remainder of my life.
For instance, I had a girlfriend in high school who moved away one summer. I was devastated and did my best to stay in touch with her via letters and phone calls, but before long those connections quietly faded away.
Eventually we lost total contact. I heard snippets over the years from mutual acquaintances, but no one ever seemed to know what had happened to her.
On occasion I would imagine that she was wondering about me – where I lived, what I had made of myself, who I had become. But then I’d realize that I was living in the same town, with the same name – hell, I was even living on the same street. If she was at all curious about me, she could have dialed the same phone number from when we were dating and she would have found me.
But even still, she had played a role in my life, and I remained curious.
And then one day one of my nieces showed me this interesting application on her computer. It was called Facebook and it allowed people to connect with each other online.
The website was not even two years old at that point and I questioned its longevity, but I was also intrigued with the concept.
Not one to be an early adopter, I waited another year or so before finally deciding to join. At that point Facebook was exploding.
Soon enough I had connected with dozens of friends and family members. And with those connections came other less obvious connections. I had friend requests from neighbors, from coworkers, from distant cousins. And like most people have experienced on Facebook, eventually more and more distant and diverse connections began being made.
At some point or another, I determined that I had successfully reconnected with everyone in my life that mattered… except for that one high school girlfriend.
Now I’ll admit that I did a bit of sleuthing through mutual acquaintance’s lists of friends to see if anyone else had found her, but as far as I could tell, she had disappeared (or just not bothered to join Facebook).
And keep in mind, none of this was done in an effort or desire to rekindle a lost romance. For me it really was a curiosity; an answer to the question of what had become of this person.
And then one day a friends suggestion appeared in my mailbox. One of our mutual acquaintances had located her and patched her through to me. Before I had the chance to request her as a friend, her request arrived in my box.
We sent several emails back and forth trading stories about of lives, careers, kids and the like. It was interesting to hear where life had taken her.
And then our correspondence ended quite naturally. From there on I would notice her occasional newsfeed posts, but other than that, there was no more curiosity.
And then something interesting happened.
Over the last year or so, I began to notice that this woman’s posts were taking on a unique tone. There was a sense of mortality being conveyed that led me to wonder if she was dealing with something a little more involved than your run-of-the-mill struggle.
And then radio silence.
I can’t say that I even noticed her exit from Facebook other than, like so many other friends, you get used to certain people’s posts popping up on your newsfeed.
Months went by before I noticed another post – and this one was telling. She alluded to “surviving” and was thanking the people closest to her.
At that point I knew she had faced a monumental life hurdle so I felt compelled to send her a quick note. In it I wrote that I had sensed something was wrong and hoped that whatever had happened had been rectified. I told her that a response wasn’t necessary, but I just wanted her to know that I was thinking of her.
Several days went by before a got a shocking reply. My high school girlfriend – a sweet, kind, mother of three, had a tennis-ball sized tumor removed from her brain. She gave me a few brief details and then thanked me profusely for thinking of her. She also mentioned that she never dreamed that Facebook (with all its connectivity) would mean so much to her recovery.
Perhaps if the main character in this week’s feature had an application like Facebook, he would have made an even more profound impact on the human race. Instead, he suffered the perils of isolation.
“The Imitation Game” starring Benjamin Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley is the real-life story of Alan Turing, considered the father of the modern-day computer and one of the men responsible for defeating the Nazis in WWII.
This is one of those stories that simply had to be told. The fact that it was told so well makes it all the more compelling to see as a film. Check this one out immediately since Cumberbatch could be front and center come Oscar night.
A quizzical “B+” for “The Imitation Game.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.