Some of us remember high school as the best years of our lives. But others…not so much. And had social media not come along, we'd likely still see ourselves (and our classmates) the way we were then, for better or worse. Meet five women for whom Facebook was the great equalizer, and then some.
'I turned nemeses into friends.'
Maralin Gray, 49, Bellmore, NY
"Two weeks into high school, two girls invited me to interview for their sorority. They sat me in someone's dark basement and shined flashlights in my face while asking me stupid questions. Refusing a second 'interview' started the bullying. In English class, one flicked paper balls and paperclips at my head and made nasty comments every time I got a paper back with a good grade. The other regularly threatened to kick my butt. Three years ago, when I discovered Facebook, I saw the clip-flicker on a mutual friend's post. Then, I saw posts about forgiving others for your own peace of mind. I realized we were just kids when she bullied me, and we are women now. I sent her a friend request, which she accepted. I saw her last summer at our 30th reunion, and we had a great time. Then, I saw a fundraiser post to help the butt-kicker survive a rare cancer. After the positive experience I'd had with her pal, I sent her a friend request. Through our chats I learned she had been through 24 rounds of chemo and it wasn't working. She passed away a few months ago, and I was genuinely sad to hear the news."
'I went from self-conscious to self-confident.'
Karen James, 31, San Francisco, CA
"I was an overweight and painfully shy high schooler. Fast forward to the age of Facebook. I was surprised to see that many of those I was so nervous around share my same interests. For instance, I saw photos and posts that tipped me off that one of the 'intimidating' kids was a fellow Harry Potterphile! We bonded immediately. I've also taken in a few San Francisco Giants games with FB friends. And things change for others too: I now feel badly for those who once made me feel badly about myself. The guy who wouldn't take me to a dance because he wanted to take a 'hotter' girl is still single and looking for happiness while I'm happily married. The star jock is still trying to show how cool he is with the jokes and brags that drew an adoring crowd back then. But now? Crickets. My perspective has changed."
'I couldn't believe who friended me.'
Keli Bilafer, 43, Green Valley, CA
"Despite being student body president, I was lonely in high school. The popular partying crowd made fun of and excluded me because I went to church and tried to make good moral decisions. But when I signed up for Facebook in 2008, I was quickly flooded with friend requests from people I knew only casually-like the former Queen Bee who didn't pay me much attention. I accepted her FB invite out of curiosity, and we had a great conversation at our high school reunion later that year. She has actually become a good offline friend. And the partiers who shunned me now interact with my page the most! This one guy who invited me to a kegger at his house back then rescinded the invitation, saying, 'Forget it; you're too goody-goody.' The same guy friend-requested me and, after my luck with the Queen Bee, I accepted. He regularly checks in, likes my status updates and comments positively."
'I feel more attractive than ever!'
Debbie Walker, 54, Florence, CO
"I was trusting and a bit naive back then, and so was shocked and hurt when so-called friends became catty. I didn't want to go on Facebook at first because I was expecting it to transport me back to all the gossip and backstabbing-and it can if you let it. But being behind the computer made me fearless; I grew more confident seeing how I've aged gracefully compared to my peers. It boosted my self-esteem reading comments like 'You look as beautiful as you did in high school, smile and all' and 'Wow, Debbie, you haven't changed a bit.' It was a pick-me-up I needed as a single woman in my 50s. And Facebook also reconnected me with Jim, a classmate who used to pick on me almost daily and to whom I hadn't spoken since graduation. Messaging on the platform led to a date and then another. Had I not joined, I never would have bonded with this incredible man with whom I've been living for the past year."
'I went from class clown to trusted confidante.'
Debra Buser, 49, Langhorne, PA
"I had tons of friends in high school, and was often invited to parties. I was always laughing, but I probably relied on my sense of humor to cover up those teenage insecurities we all have. I was the life of the party, would dance crazy, wear the silliest Halloween costume and do anything on a dare to make everybody laugh. To this day, at work, in my new groups of friends, even within my extended family, I am still 'the funny one.' When I got onto Facebook a few years ago, I was quickly surrounded by that familiar group of friends. But it's not as easy to be funny online, I discovered. Somehow, through private messages, then texts, then phone calls, I began offering advice to people. I discovered talking through problems comes easily to me. I'm proud to say that I've been the shoulder these friends needed when struggling with everything from marital problems to moody teenagers. Thanks to Facebook, I found out I can bring more to the party, so to speak, than just giggles."