Every few days I get an email from Classmates.com or a similar site advising me that someone has been checking out my profile or has been looking for me. The one I got today even went so far as telling me that it was a 58-year-old male who lives in Northport, NY and who graduated from Elmont Memorial High School in 1969. Clicking on the link that invites to find out who it is brings me to the website where, in order to find out who this person is, I must upgrade my "membership" to Gold Level for the "now-reduced" price of $12 a month for three months or just $5 a month for a year.
A dozen years ago, when the internet was young, this might have seemed a good way to connect with my former classmates. But now? How many different ways can you find someone for free? How about the online White Pages? Or Google? Or Facebook? Yes, if Billy Johnson was your best friend in the third grade, he's probably a bit harder to track down than Digby Throckmorton, so you might have to spring for the $12 Gold Level membership.
But for one of my classmates to track me down? Google serves up dozens and dozens of links to pages about me, columns I've written, and even this blog. The AOL White Pages deliver my address and phone number. And Facebook provides a picture and the ability to become my "friend." So why would one of my classmates pay a website to provide information about me that is readily available for free? I have no idea.
Especially when some living in Northport can look me up in his phone book, call me up, and say hi!