One of the things I love about social networking sites like Facebook is the ability to reconnect with people I knew when I was growing up. It's very cool to find out someone you hung out with in high school still remembers you and wants to know what you've been up to.
I've noticed an interesting trend, though, while finding my old friends. A lot of them have become a lot more conservative socially and politically over the years. This, in and of itself, isn't necessarily a surprise considering where I grew up and the crowd I used to run with. We were all pretty much good kids...didn't party, didn't do drugs and were pretty insulated from the evils of society by our parents and Sunday School teachers.
Of course, things change when you get out into the real world. You learn that everyone wasn't raised in the suburbs with a white picket fence and a loving Mom & Dad. You learn that not everyone was at church every time the doors opened. You learn that not all good people are good all the time, just like not all bad people are bad all the time. You learn about life.
Somewhere between graduating high school and turning 30, you become the person you're going to be. After that, your opinions and perception of the world are shaped by your circumstances. How you see things depends a lot on if you're married, if you have kids, if you have a job that pays the bills or if you're barely making it. People who once railed against the system and corporate America decide that eating and sleeping indoors is a pretty good thing and kids who saw the world strictly in black and white discover sometimes there are shades of gray.
I thought about all of this as I read over the profiles of my old friends. Then I realized that I was making radical assumptions about people I really care about based on a bunch of 1s and 0s on the Interwebs. People are complicated, messy and inconsistent...exactly like life. The anonymity of the web robs us of real, human interaction and personal contact.
Just because someone wants to elect John McCain or Barack Obama doesn't define them as a person...it's merely a small part of who they are. To badly paraphrase Walt Whitman "We are large...we contain multitudes."