Several months ago, following in the reluctant but curious footsteps of my significant other, I hopped on the Facebook bandwagon. Explained to me as “. . . a bulletin board that all your friends can leave notes on” and “. . . a yearbook and a scrapbook and a diary all crammed into one,” the website allows individuals to keep in touch and peer into one another’s lives online — it replaces the need for coffee dates, phone calls, birthday cards, handwritten letters, and actual human-to-human interaction. It has a plethora of features you can add, many of which seem ridiculous to me; you can give and receive imaginary gifts, drinks, and nudges, hugs, and kisses.
But I joined. And now I’m getting all deep and reflective about it. This is where the “you see, the thing is . . .” part comes in.
People I haven’t seen or heard from in two, five, ten years send me messages and friendship requests — as any Facebooker will tell you, it’s strange to suddenly hear from that kid that used to wipe his earwax on your arm when you were in kindergarten. Most of them I’m fine with, but there are quite a few whose requests I accept strictly to be polite.
There have been a few people, however, whose requests for friendship baffle me — for example, a girl I will call Sue. We met in kindergarten and were friends off and on throughout elementary school. By grade four we were mortal enemies — once, she rallied a group of about 15 other kids and they followed me around the playground (for the entire duration of recess) calling me very demeaning names, throwing rocks, and chanting slurs. No, she was certainly not shy about not liking me, and it continued, with varying degrees of severity, straight through until graduation.
And there was no shortage of people just like her — for most of my youth I was the subject of much judgement, ridicule, and cruelty. I was thrilled to move away and leave those people behind, and on my visits home I do my best to avoid them all. And then a few days ago, there’s Sue requesting my friendship on Facebook. Does she not remember how much she hates me? I can just see her now, perusing Facebook and thinking, I wonder what ever happened to that girl I tortured? I should see if she’ll be my Facebook friend.
But whatever; I was bullied and belittled and it damaged me in some pretty substantial ways, but six years ago I moved away and started my life over and I’m doing great. No big deal, I think as I sift through her online photo album and check out her educational and employment credentials. I even debate accepting her friendship request. But I can’t do it. I remember her commenting to a friend of hers from another school (while I was visibly in earshot) how I was the ugliest, most disliked person in the entire grade. In comparison to her Facebook details, I am better educated, have a better job, and am in love and happily married, but despite all that, I’ve suddenly been sucked back into high school and can’t get out. She’s travelled more than I have, she’s prettier than I am, she’s got more Facebook friends . . . I don’t want her to think, even for a second, that she’s still better than me. So I can’t add her, I can’t let her peek into my life.
I haven’t forgiven her. I probably haven’t forgiven any of them. And Facebook, the silly invention that it is, has made me realize this. How ridiculous.
My husband says that true forgiveness doesn’t really exist. True forgiveness, he says, is impossible because people never really forget — the wrongdoing comes up again; even when you’re certain it’s gone for good (under the bridge and out into the ocean) it manages to resurface somewhere in your life. Until this Facebook epiphany, I’d never agreed with him.
After all, the Amish community in Nickel Mines, PA has forgiven Charles Carl Roberts for shooting and killing five young Amish girls, and then himself, in October 2006. An atrocity light years more horrific and damaging than the abuse I suffered in school, and the Amish community forgives. They forgive Roberts and even consoled his wife at his funeral.
How petty am I? Unable to add someone from my past to an online social circle that holds little-to-no actual relevance in my day-to-day life, I am just as bad as she was. She was unable to let go of my flaws, and now I’m not able to let go of one of hers. I’m sitting in my office staring at my Facebook Friends page feeling like I’m 14 and trapped in a classroom at Coalhurst High and I have no way out. Remind me again: why is this fun?