Enjoying the perks of social media

What prompts this extraordinary trend? I notice a rise in social media group sites majority of which celebrate memories of years long ago. This year, I responded to three that I was invited to join. One I joined the year before. The participants are definitely of varying ages. The common thread runs along streams of nostalgia traversing memory lanes. Bits and pieces of history accompanied with vintage pictures are among the favorites. No one can deny curiosity about the past. Often, memories revolve around the old alma mater, the city of one’s youth, the old neighborhood, old friends and former classmates, former teachers, notable events in the community’s life, and of course, what has become of everything and everyone from our past.

One group site posts old photos of Naga City and the Bicol region (Philippines) before commerce took over the development of the area. Interesting pictures show how the universities or schools looked many decades ago, old class pictures, popular professors now gone, the downtown district not crowded with vehicles then, sidewalks not filled with a milieu of pedestrians the way they often are in modern times, and even photos of movie stars and other celebrities, pride of Bicol. All these stir a chain of comments and mini stories of life long ago — morphing into a kaleidoscope of colorful and sentimental memorabilia. A tinge of nostalgia surfaces, not without gratitude for the past, not without appreciation for how the past has birthed what now is the present. But definitely, awe for all that changed.

The perks of social media – and I’m thoroughly enjoying them.

Former high school classmates from Naga’s Santa Isabel College established a group chat site that has become a valuable resource of updates on how participants are doing and coping with graceful maturing. Importantly, it has turned into an effective platform for projects aimed at helping needy families in the communities and sponsoring Christmas meals for indigent children in the city. Recently, I joined a zoom meeting of high school batchmates. Past the usual hellos (and complimentary “Oh, how young you still look!”), it evolved into a lively chat that often wove into discussions of current events and common issues as the pandemic threat and the economic downturn. Participants were from the Philippines, Thailand, Canada and the US, but listening to us would make it seem like we all were of the same place, with the same social problems, and the same challenges, and the same anxieties. It didn’t matter what country we’re in. But enough of the heavy stuff, one said. So, we jumped into a lighthearted tease of a celibate nun’s love life before she entered the nunnery. That was my fun surprise for the evening.

Another group site was launched for people who used to live on the same street in Naga City. It was exciting to see familiar names, folks who were former neighbors, some much younger than I, others older, and still others of my age. Amazing how my memory is jarred back many decades ago when these adults were but little boys and girls in my neighborhood. And here they are, on social media, individuals that I may never be able to recognize if I met them on the street. Quite intriguing reconnections. Very interesting and engaging … until they all started to speak the local dialect, Bicol. Having not spoken that language since leaving that city, I felt lost. I could pick up native words here and there. I can understand Bicol better than I can speak or write it. But expressing myself in the native language was a struggle. Neither was I familiar with the deeper nuances of the language, much less the colloquial aspect. It seemed like I was in the old world that left me or that I left. I struggled to come up with local words, so I stopped participating for a while. Funny, I resolved to rack my brain for Bicol words. Slowly, they’re coming back to me. I’ll get there … I promise. And I’ll just jump right into the conversation … back into reminiscing about the “old world” of our youth – Penafrancia Avenue where most of us resided then and where some still live.

A piece of frivolity common to these groups — young dreams were revived. Some of the conversations settled on old “crushes.” Reading comments about young romance somehow mysteriously shed off some years as I imagined myself listening to giggling girls’ teasing and musings over their secret crushes. Interestingly, no names were ever mentioned, just descriptions and allusions to appearances, habits and characteristics. Vivid descriptions that I think, I made some right guesses. So did the others, for sure. The repartees were like games that flashbacked to our young and carefree days. In my circle of teenage friends, a crush was supposed to be secret. The nagging mystery was part of the fun and constant quibbles. We just had to be alertly observant to guess who someone’s crush was. Silly, isn’t it? I can confidently say no one ever knew who my teenage crush was. But I can guess who my friends’ were. Maybe, if or when we meet when we’re all very old and gray — hmmm … I may tell them (if they’re still as curious as they are now). But not on social media.

Lately, the group chat sites have been posting scriptural verses as “thoughts or reflections of the day”. After the frivolity of the conversations, these gentle, soul-soothing reminders are certainly refreshing and spiritually nourishing — especially enlightening and helpful in today’s confusing, anxiety-ridden world.

Then of course, there’s the group site for my siblings and families – purely to check up on each other, I think – and to announce the annual reunions. With the current pandemic warnings, the reunions are now on zoom – and on social media. We may be scores or hundreds or thousands of miles apart — but with social media, we’re just a heartbeat away.  Grateful for the perks of technology!

Linda P. Jacob

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