ALEX COHEN, host:
Back now with Day to Day. I'm Alex Cohen. The social networking Web site Facebook recently changed its terms of service. That's the virtual contract you agree to when you set up your profile. These new terms state that Facebook has the right to use the content users post on the site even after they delete their profile. That stirred a lot of debate among users concerned about privacy issues. And even without the new terms of service change, there has long been that delicate issue of Facebook stirring up things from your past.
Ms. LISSA SOEP: About a year ago, my husband started getting Facebook friend invitations from like every girl he ever went to school with, and it seemed as if half of them confessed crushes on him.
COHEN: Lissa Soep quickly figured out social networking sites not only allowed her to get back in touch with people - her husband could reconnect with folks from his past, too. But it turns out that's not all bad.
Ms. SOEP: These were girls frozen in his memory with teenage breasts, AP English minds, and a sense that anything was possible. Like this one girl from seventh grade. She friended my husband on Facebook and then reminisced about the day his family moved away. She put on her favorite dress, painted her nails purple, and worked up all her courage to hug him goodbye. Isn't that so funny, she wrote. How silly we are as kids?
You think I'd be mad or at least threatened by all this nostalgia, but I wasn't. For a split second, at least, my husband was less familiar to me, and I mean that in a good way. With so many people my age riding Facebook like a time machine to our past lives and loves, you might expect the site would be breaking up marriages or at least unleashing all sorts of digital infidelity. Some of that is happening.
But what I'm seeing among some fellow oldsters on Facebook is the opposite. We've got a new through(ph) line to our former selves, and that's reawakening a feeling of desire and desirability that might actually strengthen mid-life monogamy. Sure, it's dangerous. Once you friended an ex, you get to glimpse all these evocative fragments - a photo of him in front of sand dunes squinting into the sun, the revelation that her favorite quote is Niche's "Without music, life would be a mistake."
Here's this person maybe you fooled around with in your parent's bed or pulled an all-nighter with to finish a take-home exam. Now, you're flashing back to all that with a teething child upstairs and a mound of work, and let's say you haven't had sex with your spouse in two weeks. The mix of nostalgia and surveillance is disorienting. But it can also create a digital spark long-term partners need. It can reconnect us to who we are by helping us remember who we once were and who we wanted to be.
My friend, Amy, who's been with her wife for 14 years, was twirling Facebook for her college boyfriend and came across a ticket stub for a 1980s Lori Anderson concert she had seen. It was so bizarre, Amy told me. You could see all the folds. It's just out of reach, she said. You can't touch it, but you really are feeling it. Really feeling something, anything, is a big deal for those of us who can automatic pilot ourselves through work deadlines, play date pickups, and grocery store runs.
There's nothing like your partner's digital ex to remind you that the person you've come home to every night for the past 15 years is so much more than just a friend.
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COHEN: Lissa Soep is a senior producer at Youth Radio. And speaking of Facebook, if you have an account, instead of stalking old crushes, why not join the Save NPR's Day to Day group? Sadly, it won't help us avoid the cancellation of our show, but, hey, you can at least commiserate with like-minded folks. This is Day to Day from NPR News.
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