I got my first home internet connection in 1998. Ever since then, I have used the nets awesome power to locate people I used to know. Sometimes I want to make contact with them and other times I'm just curious as to where they are and what they are doing. Everyone knows that Google is the easiest people finder ever invented and I have put it to good use.
On the occasions I have actually made contact with a long lost friend, co-worker or other acquaintance, I have found it initially very satisfying. Part of that is the thrill of the hunt, if you will. You know, having my efforts pay off. The other obvious part is getting to communicate with someone I thought I would never hear from again. I mean, these are people I was pretty close too, personally or professionally (sometimes both).
What happens is, there is initially an exchange of emails containing a mixture of surprise and joy at being in touch again. These emails inevitably involve a lot of catching up on what we've been doing all these intervening years. It's fun, it really is.
But then we get to a point where we're caught up and the emailing stops. Its the cyber equivalent of the awkward silence. About all that happens from that point on is an occasional email sent (almost always by me) with some item from the local newspaper about something or someone we both knew. I then get a "thanks for the cool info" response and then nothing again.
And then it sinks in; our lives really have nothing in common anymore.
I guess it all comes down to the uncomfortable realization that whatever relationship I had with this person really is in the past and I can't go back. That's the part I find hard to deal with. Maybe subconsciously, when I'm looking up these folks, I'm trying to transport myself back relive the fun times I had with these people. Some people get claustrophobic and feel confined in tight physical spaces. Sometimes I feel confined by time and want to wander. Kurt Vonnegut wrote about coming "unstuck in time" in his novel Slaughterhouse-Five. I wonder if he sometimes felt the same way I do. And for all the power of the internet it still can't transport me from the present.