Identity is complicated, as I discovered when filling out a Facebook profile. Even seemingly simple questions like where is your hometown are not easy when you’ve lived in multiple places. For married women, there’s also the complication of which name (or combination of names) to use…
Facebook lets you name only one hometown. Its database matching limitation raises troubling identity questions if you haven’t lived a simple life, and would like to create opportunities to reconnect with long-lost friends… What’s the smart way to answer the question of where is your hometown?
Do you answer based on where you went to high school? Or, where you attended elementary school and spent your childhood years? Where your parents now live? Where you lived when bringing up your kids? Where you hope to retire? What if you have a second home, and want to network with people who live in that community?
I answered Facebook’s hometown question in terms of where I attended high school, but no one from my family lives there any more. Factually true perhaps, but no longer emotionally valid. My parents have moved to a nearby town. My sisters and brothers are scattered across time zones; only some chose to stay in Massachusetts.
By using the high school locale as the hometown answer, perhaps I’ll hear from former high school classmates. We lost touch years ago when I moved from the East to the West Coast for job opportunities in Silicon Valley and then the Pacific Northwest.
And yes, there’s Classmates.com… When I clicked on a link within Facebook to reconnect with high school friends, it automatically enrolled me in Classmates — not my intent. In just a few days Classmates has annoyed me to death with spamming emails. I wasted an hour this weekend trying to figure out how to cancel Classmates (to no avail), so I’ve had to add Classmates’ email URLs to my ISP’s junk mail list. My husband has similar complaints.
Editor’s note: Thanks to advice from my niece, this has now been solved. Under Facebook’s account settings, if you know where to look, you can enter an alternate full name that people can use for searching if they knew you by a former name.
- Old friends won’t recognize me by my married name.
- My maiden and married surnames sound odd together, so I only use them in combination on official government documents. Never in real life…
- Because there’s no option for a second hometown, we won’t reconnect via shared ties to the town where we attended elementary school together.
- I now live 3000 miles away, so we won’t just happen upon each other in a shopping mall.
Unfortunately, these database constraints on Facebook’s part mean I’ll lose out on those unexpected joys of reconnecting with people I haven’t heard from in years. Which to me is half the reason why you join Facebook in the first place, isn’t it? So far the people who are reconnecting are people who’ve known me as a married woman, or extended family members… Mostly the people I already know how to reach.
Perhaps someday Facebook will add fields to the member’s profile to overcome these limitations. And add to the joys of rediscovery and reconnecting with long-lost friends.