Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Revenge of the Formerly Young Person...

Some time ago in the Internet’s infancy, and before the advent of social media, I was walking along the streets of the old neighborhood with an old friend from the old neighborhood. And when a generic, run-of-the-mill middle-aged man walked past the two of us, I thought nothing of it, but my friend paused and reflected on what he had just beheld. He turned to me and said, “I think that was a formerly young person” who just passed by.

He didn’t know exactly who it was, or even the person’s surname, but somehow he was certain it was someone from the neighborhood who was, once upon a time, a young person—a kid just like we were. And really, this is largely the way it was before the World Wide Web and things like Facebook. Formerly young persons were rare sightings—chance encounters, usually, with fellow formerly young persons. And it was the way we thought it would always be.

Conversation of the past went like this: “Do you remember that kid Billy Schmidt, who we went to school with? I wonder whatever happened to him? He was a bit off.” And, for the most part, Billy Schmidt from the old neighborhood and the old grammar school—well—his life and times beyond that brief window of youth would remain in perpetuity, with countless others, a blank entry in a “Whatever Became of?" This sort of anonymity had its place, too. It maintained a certain illusion of all that was that could not in the least be sullied by what is. It, in many ways, froze time and even turned back the clock in the best possible way.

Fast forward to the present and ever advancing technologically has undeniably let the cat out of the bag. We have little choice now but to acknowledge that the Revenge of the Formerly Young Person is at hand. As formerly young person myself, I must therefore welcome what this new technology has wrought, and accept the good, the bad, and the ugly of knowing what so many formerly young persons—just like me—have been up to over the last thirty or more years. And while this surfeit of information on people from my past is occasionally depressing, sometimes uplifting, but more often than not interesting, the formerly young person nonetheless lives. He is now eternal. She is now eternal. And this is worth celebrating…isn't it?

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