Facebook’s new friend browser: a great way to reconnect? or just creepy?

I’m not sure when Facebook’s new friend browser went live, but I just looked at it today for the first time.

I couldn’t help immediately limiting my search to my hometown Frankfort, Kentucky, and my high school Western Hills. And then in less than a blink of an eye was a sea of faces, arranged by the number of mutual friends. Some of the names I remember, although I haven’t thought of most in years. Some are completely unknown to me, however — I don’t recall them at all.

And so the simple medium of Facebook continues to transform the ways in which we interact. It’s sort of poignant and sort of uplifting to see all these faces again. Of course, I could have found them among my friends’ friends, but this new feature makes the process instant and easy.

But it gets a little disturbing — or maybe just fun. The friend browser doesn’t just limit users to looking at possible connections from their own pasts: you can type in the name of any town or school or employer, and the Facebook accounts with the most mutual friends with yours will turn up. And then you can keep adding limiters to the search: mutual friends of x, who went to such-and-such high school, who are employed by such and such.

A couple of younger friends of mine — people with whom I’d love to keep up — dropped off Facebook recently. I think they found it too distracting — too overexposing perhaps too. It’s going to be very interesting to see if Facebook’s ongoing efforts to make it easier to find people from our pasts will eventually drive many users away.