High school sweethearts reunite and marry after 30 years apart. A Commack woman catches up with high school classmates in her native Israel for the first time in half a century. A beloved elementary schoolteacher, who had a lifelong impact on her students, is honored by them 44 years after they sat in her classroom.
Say what you will about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and the anti-social portrayal of him in "The Social Network," but none of the above events would have happened if not for the global phenomenon known in texting shorthand as FB.
The mega-popular social networking site that began as an online hangout of sorts for young people, has been providing a portal into the past and a steppingstone into the future for older users.
While the site has been criticized for personal information it makes available on the Internet, it has nevertheless become wildly popular across the generations, helping users find old friends and long-ago crushes, and to reach out to someone who made a difference in their lives.
Opening Facebook while having your morning coffee and checking other social networking sites after your e-mail has become a routine for many boomers and older users. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center's Internet and America Life Project, the use of social networking sites has jumped by 88 percent in the past year for adults ages 50 to 64. For older adults, it has doubled.
"I just returned from a trip to my native country, Israel, where we celebrated for the first time a 50-year high school reunion, thanks to Facebook," said Sara Ronen, 66, of Commack. Searching on Facebook for classmates' profiles, Ronen found a high school chum who was in touch with others. "We managed to contact 12 classmates, and we were all excited to get together," said Ronen, who had been planning to visit Israel for a family wedding. "It was an emotional reunion after not seeing some people for 50 years."
A lasting impression
Not all reconnections are trans-Atlantic, but they can be just as emotional.
Marisely Torres, 54, of Westbury and a few of her fifth- and sixth-grade classmates from PS 16 in Brooklyn decided to plan a reunion to honor their favorite teacher. "We had wondered whatever became of our other classmates and our beloved teacher, Ms. Rosenblum-Lowden," Torres said.
Despite the years that separated teacher and students, Facebook was the link that reconnected them. Torres found the teacher and some classmates on the site. After multiple communications, a date was set in May this year for the reunion, where they presented a plaque of appreciation to the teacher who had made a lasting impression.
"Facebook enriched my life with an experience I will never forget," said their teacher, Renee Rosenblum-Lowden, 70, of Columbia, Md. Author of the book "You Have to Go to School . . . You're the Teacher!" (Corwin, 2008), a classroom management guide, Rosenblum-Lowden was remembered for her compassion and after-school meetings with students, when she bought them French fries from a corner store.
"She spoke with us, not down at us, and listened to what we had to say," Torres said fondly. "She took us to concerts at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and on countless trips."
Life comes full circle
Clicking onto Facebook provides countless possibilities -- from finding the one who made a difference to the one who got away. For Jeffrey Storck, who grew up in Kings Park, Facebook helped bring his life full circle when he found his high school sweetheart's page and reconnected with her.
"Facebook is either the greatest invention since sliced bread, or it's totally evil (I'll leave it to you to decide which :))," Jeffrey Storck, 53, typed to the gal he knew as Denise Pavone when they were teenage sweethearts.
He had attended Kings Park High School. She went to Northport High. The two separated after a misunderstanding when they started college, but they never forgot each other.
"We were too young to address our feelings," said Denise Pavone Storck, 52. Denise, a mother of three, was divorced. Jeffrey had never married. In the late 1970s, they both ended up moving to the Washington, D.C., area and were practically neighbors but didn't know it.
"We went shopping in the same grocery store!" Denise said incredulously. Her reaction when she heard from her first love? "No way, you've got to be kidding me," she recalled. "He was living 10 miles away in the D.C. area."
His first Facebook message to her, sent in November last year, helped to bridge the 30-year gap in their relationship. "Hopefully you have not forgotten me," Jeff wrote. "I surely have never forgotten you. How could I? I see you have a new (to me at any rate) last name. I hope life has treated you well. I would have sent you a friend request, but thought a note was better. Would love to catch up on the last 30 or so years (frightening isn't it?)." After their initial Facebook exchange, Jeffrey and Denise started dating and in February this year Jeffrey proposed. The couple married in June and live in Arlington, Va.
"Without Facebook," Denise said, "I'd still be single."
Social network yeas and nays 1. Don't post upcoming vacations or other time away from home. You never know who else can access your information.
2. If your kids and grandkids accept you as a Facebook friend, don't abuse the connection by commenting too often or too personally. And don't post embarrassing baby pictures of them without their permission.
3. Consider who should have access to each site. Think about restricting Facebook to friends and family, and keep business contacts to LinkedIn.
4. Don't post personal information, such as date of birth, Social Security number, home address, phone number, bank or business data.
5. For dating sites or any site that requires a screen name, don't incorporate personal information, such as your name, age, hometown.
6. Remember, once you post something online, it's out there for good. Think before you click.