With Facebook, one woman finds, high school never ends. And, oh yeah, she was the one whose life was a living hell:
In a poignant piece on Salon, one Taffy Brodesser-Akner talks about the experience of confronting - and friending! - her high school tormentors on Facebook. The victim of the kind of bullying and ostracism of which high school dramas are made (the kind that requires the tormentors to put a lot of energy into it) Brodesser-Akner finds that the girls who made her life a living hell are now pleasant-enough women who seem to accept her without question.
In my imagination, my old clique's renewed friendship tells me that they know they were wrong, that they were just being cruel. They're sorry, they say with every LOL or emoticon. We were wrong, they say when they press the "like" button on my status update. If I'm honest, I bet they don't think about it. I bet they regard me as a name that is familiar — a new person in their lives, more than an old one.
The author continues,
Why do you need to be loved by people who rejected you a hundred years ago, asks my husband, though I have explained it. He believes I have Stockholm syndrome, that I have fallen in love with my torturers. I tell him that these are just old friends, that I'm over it, that it's nice to be in touch with a piece of my past. But I'm not exactly over it, am I? What I am, though, is someone who has finally found a way to put my life's ugliest social chapter to rest. Maybe I didn't come by it the honest way — through a true reckoning with my past, a fearless inventory of what happened that year and why I can't get over it. But who is to say that we shouldn't try to find peace any way we can? Who says it always has to be so hard?
By the end, she's "popular" - friends with all these people, with a robust list of online acquaintances. You could argue that it's meaningless, but in the age of Facebook, but social networking has effectively made high school last forever, both literally (we're all friends, whether we've ever exchanged a word or not) and in the horrible figurative realm, too. Pettiness and obsession and changing alliances are as present in our lives as they were then. And yet, at the same time, it's all disappointingly easy. No one rejects you; everyone is somehow humanized. It's like a perpetual reunion, but without the drama. Has she laid a chapter to rest, or just recreated it, and fallen prey to the internet trap of believing her own reality is universal? Here's what I know for sure: when I went for my reunion last year, it was seriously anticlimactic, and very different from our five-year iteration, when Facebook was the purview of the Ivy League. I caught up with old friends - but then we'd already briefed each other through out profiles. Some people looked different - but we'd all seen them in their photo albums. And sure, a few people had brought spouses, but we'd already met them, in their wedding finery. We knew what the others did, where they lived, who had moved back. There were no jagged edges, no shocks, no revelations - certainly no revenge or triumphantly revealed swans. It was pleasant, and unsurprising. And it felt, in many ways, like the reality was online, and this was just a dutiful corollary. The author says she's finally "a popular seventh-grader." Or maybe everyone's just boring adults.
Facebook, The Mean Girls And Me [Salon]