Editors' Note: Guest blogger Amanda Strong graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in televison/radio and is the author of the, With Just One Click..., the first of its kind about the complexity of Facebook relationships.
The scene is set. The Yuletide log shielding you from the brisk weather pounding outside the front door, stockings hanging just so, Christmas trees sparkling and gleaming bright, presents perfectly wrapped, mistletoe hanging under the doorway, children anxiously awaiting a visit from Old Saint Nick, and the halls decked with boughs of holly. Yet, you sit preoccupied with the "what ifs" lingering in your head like ghosts whispering and crowding your every thought. The nostalgia, too thick to escape, keeps the past in the present while the only thing on your mind is Facebook.
A foreigner to the world of social networking before signing up and adding "friends," you were naïve to think these fun and exciting new connections would be without consequence. You can't always run from your past. Particularly if it is staring you right in the face in the form of a friend request from an ex or image of an old flame uncovered on one of your Facebook stalking missions. The Christmas season inevitably draws people back to where they've felt most comfortable, at ease, and even vulnerable at times: home.
When you insert yourself back into that familiar environment of your old room, the bus stop where you stood every morning for more years than you can count, and of course, the holiday dinner table rich with tradition and surrounded by family, your past can quickly catch up to you. Revisiting the ghosts of years gone by is now an ordinary day on Facebook, with your exes practically dangled in front of your face for you to do as you like. These people may slowly work their way back into your life, sparking memories that were previously buried and hidden away indefinitely.
It could be the first relationship you had, the teddy bear your ex from high school gave you that still sits in your old room calling out your name, the first guy you ever said you loved, the long-time girlfriend you brought home to mom and dad year after year, the significant other who gave you that cherished bracelet with your name engraved on it, or even that one person who broke your heart. You thought you clearly moved onto the next relationship, maybe you even tied the knot, but failed relationships from the past can develop into ties that bind in the present, à la social networking.
Relationships can be childish, misguided, hurtful, filled with insecurities, or wrong from the start. Usually in these cases, the couple will go in opposite directions and never see or hear from one another again. Enter: Facebook. With just one click you can see your past like a slideshow; the good, bad, and ugly. Friending an ex can be difficult and more emotional than you were prepared for. Then the holiday arrives, and your life can become even more complicated. Remembering a simpler time when you had much less responsibility may lead you to start wondering about the one that got away or the one relationship that was left unfinished and without closure.
A sordid past plus a dash of Facebook is a potent recipe. Accountability for your actions, past, present, and future was never as real or instant as it is today. Ghosts from Christmases past can make a person throw caution to the wind, forgetting to even consider the consequences of allowing an ex back into their life. All you have to do is check your phone or computer to see the updated, play-by-play of your "friend's" lives. An ex can speak to you 24-7 with no holidays off. This kind of access can pull a person in too many directions, inject doubt where one was once certain, or even tear marriages apart. People are finding out they have to live with the fallout.
Whether the ghosts of Christmases past are breaking bread with you or giving you pause, remember to keep moving forward. Dwelling on the what-ifs in the complicated and dynamic world of social networking is daunting. Spending time with your family, some more grey and wrinkled than others, will keep you in the present, no matter how distracted you are by the past.
Relax and enjoy some time off. Make some memories and don't stress. It may not be possible, but try to let Christmas escape Facebook for at least a couple of hours, just long enough to unwrap a few presents and partake in the annual family squabble.