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Facebook friends 40 years on

13 October 2012, 15:07

Almost four decades after they last saw one another, a group of school friends met up recently after reconnecting with 2 500 of their peers on a Facebook group.

Around 40 years ago, a group of homes on the Bluff, a suburban promontory on the eastern coastline of small-town South Africa with a population of around 20 000 people, spawned a motley collection of resilient neighborhood kids. Frequenting one of two local high schools, Diane, Cindy and Hazel-Anne spent their teenage years obsessing over the boys from their “brother” school and generally doing what teenage girls the world over do.

A few of years older than them, Judi, Mariana and Ruth were disdainful about the younger “brats,” and further down the food chain Ruth’s sister Tracey played cops and robbers with the younger brothers of the other five girls.

Fast forward to 2012, when most of the families from the Bluff have moved on and many have left South Africa. Elton Hickman, an enterprising young Bluffite, started a Facebook group entitled “Bluff Reunited” and within a few months membership rocketed to over 2,500.

Tracey, now living in Canada, added her sister Ruth, with whom she had recently reconnected after a 20-year gap. Judi, now living in the U.K. reconnected with Cindy, who lived in Thailand. Diane, now called Dee, reconnected with Hazel-Anne who had moved a few hundred kilometers away. Together, they tracked down Mariana, still living in Durban but not on Facebook.

Daily conversations ensued on the group’s wall among others who grew up on the Bluff, where the motto was “we’re rough and tough, we come from the Bluff.” Faded photos were scanned and posted with nostalgic comments such as “remember this?” School friends found each other after decades of not knowing where their friends had ended up. Threads abounded that began with “does anyone here know what happened to so-and-so?” Invariably, someone knew, and often the person in question was added to the group and joined in the reminiscing.

But talk is cheap, as they say, so Cindy, Dee and Hazel-Anne decided to put their money where their mouths were and actually arranged a visit to the Bluff. The journey began at Dee’s house, where they all gathered before making their way to a local pub on the night of September 19th, 2012. They had posted their intentions on the group wall and invited anyone in the area to join them. Around 12 others turned up, according to Gary Wilson, one of the old Bluff boys, who went along with his wife Wendy.

After a great evening of catching up, the visit wasn’t over yet. “Friday 21st of September was especially nostalgic,” says Dee. “The three of us visited our childhood neighborhood and took photos of the old homes. We were even able to find and speak with families who are still living there.”

With Facebook now boasting close to 900 million users, there must be dozens of stories like this being written all over the world, in multiple languages. With all the issues facing social media, it’s easy to lose sight of the benefits of the platform – such as the re-establishing of friendships lost a long time ago. – By Tracey Sandilands

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