I have had an active Facebook account for a while now and what with it recently becoming the number one busiest website, toppling google in the rankings, it does signify much of the modern way we socially interact, doesn’t it?

Each day when I log in, I have multiple friend requests. many are hypnotherapists that have many friends in common with me and several of them I accept as friends… many I delete because I suspect that I have nothing in common with them and they are not even the person in the photograph!

Then the other category of those friend requests are people from my past…. Hmmm…. I have had an interesting experience in relation to those… I first experienced a profound memory failure, followed by a wonderful hypermnesia effect… Something I actually believe to be very good for mental health, let me explain all of this…

When those requests for rekindling old friendships come rolling in from people I recognised from school or college or university, you can work out what goes on… Within my account, I provided information in many of the categories requested, including my secondary school, college, university and so on…. Facebook uses personal information to suggest possible friends and notices friends you have in common and comes up with potential people. Thus many friend requests were coming from people I knew at school many years ago (man school was a long time in the distant past!).

For some of these people, knowing that I went to secondary or primary school with these people did not help me remember who they were one bit! I sometimes had a name for these friend requests but I was drawing a blank. A clear, complete memory failure – nothing came to mind. I looked at their basic photo, but to be honest, most of us look quite a bit different than we did back then (generally, we’ve all gotten substantially better looking since those gawky teenage years). I couldn’t remember who these people were.

What to do?

I went and looked at the photos from those people, especially those from school years…. with all those hilarious hairstyles. When I saw the pictures, I discovered that suddenly I was remembering all those people from school.

Facebook friend requests turned out to be another example of how hard it is to remember names but how easy it is to remember other aspects of people, such as images and characteristics. I’ve discovered that so many people I went to school with have gone on to do some utterly amazing things and lived some beautiful lives.

Going through old photos and reconnecting with friends has led to another interesting memory phenomenon: hypermnesia. In usual conditions, hypermnesia is the increased recall following repeated attempts at remembering, particularly as each recollection cues the retrieval of other related memories. Hypermnesia, the increase in memories, can be seen as the opposite of amnesia, the decrease or loss of memories. I have found it a real joy to move from what felt like amnesia for my school and college years to my current state of hypermnesia for those periods fo time in my life.

Of course, I don’t remember everything from those times of my life… One friend claimed that she recalled something naughty that I did at school but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me… I mean, as if!??

So it is just this that leads me to conclude that Facebook should not just be associated with young people of this new generation…. Reminiscence can be very healthy for older individuals… Come on people, get your grandparents, parents and other older folk to open Facebook accounts, post old pictures, and reconnect with old friends and places via the internet? Let it start enhancing mental health for all!!

Now where did I put my glasses…?