Help me find the Guy on the Train!
June 2, 2014 6:53 PM   Subscribe

Should I try to reconnect with an old high school acquaintance? Or just leave it be?

This time last week, I was on a train home to visit my family. While on said train, I noticed that there was a man sitting a lot further up front but that he kept craning around to look at me. Several times. I'm pretty eagle eyed so I thought I recognized him, even though I was only seeing him in profile. My suspicions were confirmed when he stood up a bit later. He was someone that I knew briefly in high school. He was a senior (I think) and I was a freshman. In a weird burst of extreme extroversion in the library, I drew attention to myself in some quirky and amusing way (can't remember the details as this was ages ago) and sort of reeled him in....although this was not my intention. I was just making a scene because that's what teenagers do for fun.

We never, ever spent time with one another one on one or outside of school. But for the rest of the year, we had a hallway flirtation where we would reference said quirky incident and build on the joke, further amusing ourselves. Like I said, not a substantial relationship...but there was a kind of hidden depth to it. A recognition of sorts. 'Everybody in this school is normal and boring. Thank god we're both crazy.'

When I saw him on the train, and noticed that he had recognized me or was at least trying to place me, I was surprised at how giddy I got. I had thought about him over the years but just assumed he had totally forgotten me. We got off that the same stop and I was just a few paces behind him. It was one of those things where both people are too shy to speak up...and the moment is lost. But I really feel like he did want to say something.

I'm told that nowadays, there is usually an easy fix for this situation: Facebook.

The problem is that going on Facebook sends me into a black hole of depression like nothing else. I loathe it. So, I haven't updated my status for like 10 years and I have apparently have something like 50 friend requests, blah blah. Apparently he is on it, but has lots of privacy settings.

Then I went on LinkedIn and found him and was happy to see that he's been doing well and making strides in his chosen profession- and again, I was surprised at how moved and happy I was for him.

A friend of mine said I should just get a LinkedIn account and reach out to him that way. But I have concerns about doing this, mostly due to my being a wimp. They are:

1.) I don't have a LinkedIn account so if I just set one up now, I probably seem like a stalker. Or at the very least, totally transparent.

2.) LinkedIn doesn't give you any personal info. He could be in a serious relationship. He could be married. That could get awkward quickly.

3.) How do I broach the subject of running into him if it's been over a week? Does that seem like I've been ruminating about that whole thing for too long? It's weird, right? I message him with "Hey, did I see you on the train 2 weeks ago?" With my brand new LinkedIn account? Awkward.

4.) I don't have a *career* career. Things are looking up and they could one day get really exciting....but I in no way that have the same kind of impressive resume that would match his on a site like that. So what do I put in my profile? Could be potentially embarrassing...

5.) It was fun being crazy with him when we were young. But a friend of an acquaintance who dated him long ago says that he really was crazy. In a bad way. If I reach out, maybe I'll be initiating something with someone that I will later regret. I really have no way of vetting him.
a.) But this is probably unlikely given all the accomplishments he's racked up in the last few years in his field. I don't think he'd be able to do all that if he wasn't fully compos mentis.

6.) We were technically not that close So does it just seem straight up strange to reach out to him?
posted by ChickenBear to Human Relations (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yeah, this is generally what people use social networking for, nowadays.

In answer to your questions:

1. Usually when I get a friend request on a social network for someone I know in real life, but who doesn't have a lot of presence on the site in question, I assume that they just joined and are building their network. Not that they are a stalker.

2. LinkedIn is not for this. It's for professional networking. If you want to know if he's married or see pictures of his kids or find out about his political opinions, that's Facebook.

2a. Conversely, most people don't find it "awkward" to have LinkedIn connections if they are married. Or Facebook connections, really. I have tons of old friends from high school who are now Facebook friends who are married with kids and otherwise not looking to date me. I don't think this is really a thing.

3. People add each other as contacts on social networking sites all the time. You don't need a reason to do it. If you wanted to send him a message, just say "Hey, so this is kind of random, but I think I saw you on Train X from Yville to Zburg last week. I was too shy to say hi at the time, but... Hi! Hope you're well, and I'd love to catch up with you."

4. This is another reason that people use Facebook for social networking among real-life contacts. Because it's meant to sort of be a general overview of your whole life. Some people are judgmental about Facebook and are weird about hearing from an old friend and realizing they're not as cool or successful or whatever, but mostly that doesn't happen. Pretty much anybody is happy to be friends with anybody, as long as they know each other in real life.

5. I don't know, either reach out or don't. The stakes are very low, here. Even if he is the craziest freak who ever insaned, it is unlikely that he's going to come to your house and kill you, or start stalking you, or create problems for you in your life in any way. And if he does anything you don't like via social media, you can just block him or close your account or whatever, because it doesn't sound like you're that heavily invested in it.

6. Again this is what social networking is for. Nobody thinks it's weird to hear from old school friends and the like, nowadays. In fact I just got a friend request from a girl I went to elementary school with, who I haven't seen in probably 20 years, and I was like, "Her baby is so cute!" and not "OMG BACK OFF STALKER", or whatever you're fearing.
posted by Sara C. at 7:10 PM on June 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

Ugh, no, don't get a LI account just so you can connect with this rando guy from your past. That's not what LinkedIn is for. Either get over your Facebook dread and friend him there, or chalk it up as two ships passing in the night. I think you're in fantasy mode right now, which is fine, but I don't understand exactly what your motivation is here.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:11 PM on June 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Well, you're probably romanticizing him a bit. It's not a big deal to reach out a week later. "Hey, saw someone who looked like you on the train last week - how have you been?"

Do it on Facebook if LinkedIn feels weird. It sounds like you have a lot of thought-out reasons for why neither works for you, but I wonder if you are creating roadblocks for yourself so you don't actually contact him.

What's the worst thing that could happen? He will just not reply? Oh well. He'll think you're weird? Well, you've seen him once in ten years so you have awhile to go before you have to interact with him at best. He's married? Bummer, but it's good he's happy and no harm no foul.

If you want to do this, do it. If things about it are hard, make a game plan. No need to respond to 50 friend requests. No reason to look at Facebook for anything more than friending him, asking him for a drink if it goes well, and then moving off to email ("I don't use Facebook often but lets continue this catching up on email. Here's my address." - and let him reply that way if he wants. If not, oh well.)

Don't invest too much in this. He is just a guy that you were flirty with when you and he were both young. It might go somewhere, it's more likely that it won't, but you'll never know if you don't try. Just don't get too invested too early - be slow and evaluate him and how you feel at all points. I might even suggest that if it is causing you this much anxiety that maybe you should work on that before you try to date.

Best of luck to you.
posted by sockermom at 7:12 PM on June 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Well, of your two options a) reaching out, and b) not reaching out: which one will be the one you keep thinking about 10 years from now?

Likelihood that the guy is completely nuts is pretty minimal. Even if he's married, so what? You're not propositioning him, just want to say hello.

Finally, if he is in a career and linkedin, you might be able to find out where he works, and guess at his email address. Or, you could setup a linkedin profile and lock your privacy settings down. Or, even tell him the truth about Facebook/linkedin status. Or, call his office ( probably my least favourite option)

Finally, the fact that he has a "career" and you don't have a "career" is only as important as he and you make it. That is a very small aspect of what defines a person, and it sounds like you have a story to tell about yourself. If he is a jerk about it, you don't have to talk with him again and he becomes a small blip of your history.

All this is dictated by my belief that life is too short to worry about little things, and it is too short to go through without others. He could be the funny guy you remember, and that could enrich your life. How awesome would that be?
posted by Yavsy at 7:12 PM on June 2, 2014

I wouldn't set up a LI account just to contact him, that would be weird. This is exactly what Facebook is for. He wouldn't find it weird to hear from you on FB, even if you hadn't maybe seen him on the train last week. Say hi on FB, or get over it and move on with your life.
posted by COD at 7:24 PM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

You are way overthinking this.

Using whatever social media method of your choosing--it really doesn't matter--send him a message that says, "hey! Saw you on the train to Walla Walla last week and thought I'd say hi. Hope you're doing well!"

You're saying hi to an old acquaintance. You're not proposing going on a date with this man or being a homewrecker or flirting with him or whatever other story might be built up in your head after a week of fixating on it. You're just saying hello.

That's all! It's cool! Easy! Have fun!
posted by phunniemee at 7:29 PM on June 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

phunniemee has it exactly. Relax & reach out.
posted by LonnieK at 7:32 PM on June 2, 2014

Agreeing to saying hi via a facebook message or just letting it go. Whatever you do, keep it casual and keep your distance!

I was in a similar situation to you, I contacted an old school friend via LinkedIn (he doesn't have facebook) and from that he has emailed me excessively, googled me and called me at work and started emailing my work address.

Just remember to be careful!
posted by Youremyworld at 7:36 PM on June 2, 2014

So few people have any hidden depths, so I think it is worth a conversation.

Listen to the never haves,
listen to the don'ts.
Listen to the never wills,
listen to the wont's,
but just remember child,
anything can happen...

It's always more fun to do it than not.
posted by mearls at 7:36 PM on June 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

Even though you hate it, Facebook is the right tool for this job. The message is something like, "Hey, I'm not sure you'll remember me, but I think I saw you on the train to Funkytown last week. Sorry I didn't say hi. I wasn't sure it was you until you got up for your stop. Hope all is well with you."

He'll reply or not.
posted by 26.2 at 9:34 PM on June 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Suggestion: have someone you trust log in to Facebook for you. All they have to do is click into the friend requests, the inbox, and the notifications flag thing one time each, and it'll clear out the million "new thing" notifications you have. At least for me, as long as the friend request flag isn't lit up red with a number, it's easy not to click on it and just to ignore it. I dunno, maybe if you have a REALLLY trusted friend you could have them cut and paste a message you email them (for Train Guy) and send it to him. The message would end with "if you want to drop me a line, I don't use Facebook much so just hit me up at" or whatever. Bam. You never have to log into Facebook and you've contacted him and put the ball in his court. It's kind of elaborate but if you really need to not log in to Facebook yourself, it's a thought.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:11 PM on June 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

He may have already checked you out on Facebook and sent you a message!

Log in!
posted by jbenben at 1:16 AM on June 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Before you go any farther, decide what you want from this--- do you want a buddy? Do you want something more romantic? And don't forget, he appeared to recognize you but chose not to say anything anyway: perhaps, just perhaps, that wasn't shyness or awkwardness, perhaps he simply didn't WANT to reconnect with you --- YOU may have viewed your high school interactions as a fun flirtation, but how did HE see it?
posted by easily confused at 2:43 AM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have had old acquaintances add me on Facebook. In almost every single case, it was really nice to hear from them and know that they were still thinking about me. I'd say go for it.
posted by futureisunwritten at 4:54 AM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I totally get hating facebook because I sswear everyone I know is getting married or having babies and it makes me feel like utter crap.

So don't spend more than a few moments there. Just message him. Don't try to tidy up your notifications. And make the message simple and no stakes. Hey X, seeing you on the train on Y really took me back to high school. What have you been up to?

He'll either respond or he won't. This is one of the strengths of facebook, low stakes re-connecting.
posted by Aranquis at 5:02 AM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Update your pic to something cute, ignore any Farmville requests etc. Message him and do a friend request. And see where you are after that.

Linked in is awesome, and you should TOTALLY sign up and start a profile. But not for this.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:22 AM on June 3, 2014

I know it's old school, but you could post a Missed Connection on Craigslist
posted by I am the Walrus at 12:11 PM on June 4, 2014

If you send him a message on Facebook, and if you two are not Facebook "friends", he will probably never see your message. Facebook will automatically send your message to the "Other" folder, which most users don't even know exists. See this article for a more-detailed explanation. (God only knows the number of misunderstandings, hurt feelings, missed opportunities, etc. that have been caused by this "feature" of Facebook.)
posted by alex1965 at 12:24 PM on June 4, 2014

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