Reunions and Facebook

One thing I realized over the time leading up to my reunion weekend last month is that Facebook may really be changing the dynamic of reunions. It used to be that you would come to a reunion and the appearance of a good number of people had changed. So you may spend part of the time scanning nametags in order to find the names you recognize. And maybe even after recognizing the name or the face, you still don’t remember your relationship to the person.

If you do encounter someone you knew and their appearance changed, you may be shocked negatively or positively and you may be unable to hide that surprise. You may spend the evening racking your brain to remember the people, your relationship to them, and what transpired back in the day. Even then a good portion of those memories may not come to the fore until afterward.

The other thing is that you’ll likely be repeating the same recap of your life endlessly for the next few hours. “I am a deep sea peanut biologist. I’ve been married five times and divorced twice. I have a dozen children but only a couple are mine. All of their names start with “X” and the first is actually named “X”. I wandered aimlessly around Antarctica for a few years after college, but eventually settled on Pitcairn Island after my ship ran aground. I’ve changed my name to Fletcher Christian.” You know, the boring stuff.

But in this age of increased connectivity and everyone reconnecting on Facebook, so much of this classic reunion experience is changing. Of course this change depends heavily on what you put out there online and even how interactive you are through direct messaging or chats.

The experience of being shocked by how people have changed has been relocated from the high school gym to your home computer. It’s become a very private affair allowing you to tailor your reaction to their current appearance. One upside is that there is already a level of familiarity since you’ve seen what they look like now through many of their photos. You also have the time to dig out the yearbook to remember who these people are. You may each post old photos which will jog your memory. Or you may also converse about old times either online, by phone, or even in person. You may also know much of what your fellow alumni have been doing over the years and seen the photos of their journey though life.

So then what will happen at the reunions in this day of connectivity. I think it’s an excellent opportunity to take it to the next level. Much of the fundamental information is out of the way so you can talk about either items related to that fundamental info that interests one or both of you. There may also be secondary items on your FB page that are conversation starters. “I saw that Ishtar was your favorite movie. Me, too!!!” Plus with the fundamental info out of the way, it allows more time to reminisce.

I find also that the combination of the reunions and Facebook provide a lasting effect to the reunions. I suspect in the past that the reunion was a one-time affair where many people said they’d get together again, but it was rare for them to actually do it. But with these social networking sites, the connection remains both before and after. As I mentioned at the beginning it depends on how active people are with the sites, but I suspect that quite a few of the connections that have been reestablished will continue for sometime.

Granted most of the interaction through social networking sites can be fairly superficial. “I ate a jar of peanut butter for lunch.” It’s not the end-all be-all of human interaction. Real interaction necessitates effort by the users or actual face time. Hence a reason why the real life encounters work well with the keeping-in-touch through the websites.

Over the next few years it will be interesting not only to see if these connections last, but also if Facebook itself lasts. I’ve already seen how a few online mediums like blogs and to a certain degree Flickr have gone from everyone participating heavily to a moderate (balancing it with my life) participation. Using history as a reference, it will likely be replaced by another medium. Be it another website or some other technological advance. But for right now, despite it’s flaws, I think it’s a good way to keep these rekindled connections flourishing.

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~ by Frank on November 29, 2009.

One Response to “Reunions and Facebook”

  1. Funny, just the other day I said, “Facebook is just like Classmates.com, only free.”

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