You know that thing on Facebook where they suggest people you might know? On occasion they are correct, but that's not what I find interesting. What I like is the part where the prospective FB friends are already friends with friends of mine ... "mutual friends." Usually, this is just someone from a similar group of people, like if a friend of my daughter shows up, our mutual friends consist of other friends of my daughter. But once in awhile, I find out that people I know, know the same people ... their degrees of separation are minimal. For some reason, I find this intriguing.
So, for instance, Facebook suggests that I might know someone named Melissa from the East Bay. The reason they think this, I assume, is because she is already friends with two of my friends, so there's a possible connection. Well, one of those two friends, Matt, is someone I've known for 20 years or so, an old Bad Subjects buddy who is currently a professor in Philly. The other mutual friend, Logan, is someone who grew up with my kids ... I've known him since the day he was born. He has a master's in architecture from Harvard, and I believe he is currently involved in solar energy.
The usual way we find out that there is some unexpected connection between the people in our lives is when we discover that two of our friends know each other. In the example above, my friend from grad school would turn out to know the guy who grew up with my kids. Facebook adds another level to this, though. It's not that Matt and Logan know each other ... it's that someone I may or may not know (in this case, I think it's "don't know") is friends with both Matt and Logan. OK, I'm just procrastinating when I should be grading papers, but this interests me.
(Largely unrelated anecdote I've told before, but I'm going to add it here anyway. Logan's father was a professor at Cal who, among other things, mentored a few undergrads through individual majors. These students had their graduation ceremony alongside several other "marginal" programs, like the ones I was involved with, American Studies and Mass Communications. The day after I participated in my own doctoral graduation, I was asked to participate as a faculty member in the "marginal" ceremony. I was quite excited ... I remember the speaker was the Rev. Cecil Williams, and I was starstruck as usual, sitting beside him on the stage. Anyway, over the years, Logan's father and I had lost touch, and he likely had no idea what I'd been up to recently. So I'm standing in line, getting ready for the processional into the auditorium, with my fancy doctor robes on, and ... did I mention Logan's dad had a wonderful Trinidadian accent? a real joy to hear ... we start to walk into the auditorium, and suddenly I hear this deep, booming, very recognizable voice: "Steven! What are you doing here?" I guess if we'd have had Facebook then, he wouldn't have needed to ask.)