August 24, 2008

The other day I received an email from an old friend. It's been at least eight years since I have seen or spoken to this person but we had once been close. We'd worked on a project together and I had gone to her wedding. A friend of the groom had flirted with me at the reception and, at the time, I told her about this, thinking she would be amused.

"He was flirting with you?" She looked concerned. Turns out he was married and his wife was in the hospital about to give birth. "I'm sure he was drunk." I said.

Just then I knew that would go down as the moment her wedding day went south.

After her honeymoon I saw her once before she moved to Los Angeles. Then we lost touch. Until this week. There was her email and when I opened it up, the message was from a website and read: "I looked for you on Reunion.com but you weren't there. Please connect with me so we can keep in touch."

I knew it had to have been an automated message because anyone who knows me for five minutes knows I would sooner be on a website for trolls than Reunion.com.

It asked if I knew "Sarah Lewis" and then gave me a choice of clicking on Yes or No. If I clicked on YES - I could see who else was searching for me. That was tempting. If I clicked on NO, I could continue to live my life of obscurity.

Neither of these options seemed appealing. I read on. At the bottom of the email there was a slogan which read: Find Everyone From Your Past.

Really? Everyone? Would I find the Balinese woman who gave me the perfect massage five years ago in Ubud? What about the neighbour whose tub leaked and ruined my ceiling? Is everyone on the planet on this website except me? I felt so left out.

Reluctantly, I clicked YES. But instead of being presented with a list of all the people who had been looking for me, I was presented with another message. In big bold letters: "Sarah wants to connect with you!!"

If Sarah wants to connect with me so badly - why not do it herself? Clearly, she still has my email because she passed it on to this site to do the re-connecting for her. How impersonal is that?

Apparently I could join - for free -and reconnect with all my "old loves, lost friends, and classmates". No thanks. Plus, I could "keep in touch with everyone who matters."

This was a breakdown waiting to happen. What these websites don't think about is that with certain personality types, when someone really matters - we push them away.

So the offer to find these people - and bring them back into my life - is not only a disservice but also a mental health hazard. After years getting over someone they make it possible for that person to reappear in an instant. Are they willing to cover the cost of therapy to repair the damage? I spend my entire life avoiding people from my past. The last thing I want is to get in touch.

Also, what if I join because I'm curious to know who wants to reach out to me - I click on the link that says: "see who else is searching for you" - and it turns up blank? 38 million members, 270 million profiles, everyone I've ever known has access - and NO ONE is searching for me.

That can't feel good.

I'd only sign up to Reunited.com if there were a way to do it anonymously. I wouldn't mind seeing if I'm being searched for. I just don't want to be found.