Sooooo….. How’ve You Been?
October 4th, 2012

Last weekend my dad went to what must have been (if my math is right) his 45th high school reunion.  He is all about both catching up with old friends and reminiscing about old times.  Rarely does he miss a reunion.

My 15th reunion would have been last year, but none of us was really on the ball enough to plan anything.  We tisk-tisked ourselves over it and sort of collectively vowed to get ahead of the curve for our 20th in now-four years.  I went to my tenth, and have since intermittently wondered whether or not I will go to my 20th.  I had an okay time at the reunion six years ago, but it wasn’t an experience that had me aching for more of high school.  (Who really aches for more of high school anyway?)  This question of “to go or not to go” had been put to bed for some time (“Don’t go” was the answer), but lately I’m beginning to reconsider.

The reason this question has become interesting to me again?  Social media.  Specifically, Facebook.  I’ve been wondering: does keeping up with old friends in the online world make us more or less likely to go to some effort to see them in person?  Are we less likely to go because we already know what people are up to and how they’ve changed?  Or are we more likely to go because we’re more engaged with them?

I have a remarkably different view of my former classmates now than I did in 2006.  At my tenth reunion I saw my peers as I did on the day we graduated.  The cool kids were the cool kids.  The awkward kids were the awkward kids.   When you haven’t seen someone in ten years, you have almost no choice but to pick up where you left off.  And one weekend doesn’t really provide the opportunity for meaningful updates of any kind.  Everyone fell immediately back into their old roles and their old cliques, which was only marginally enjoyable.  So why might the next reunion be any different from the last?  Since then I’ve joined Facebook.

You might argue that Facebook doesn’t really provide the time or space for meaningful updates either.  But it does provide the opportunity for regular updates, and I would argue (despite the prevalence of highly curated content – we only show what we want people to see) that via frequency and recency Facebook gives us the opportunity to see our former classmates as they are today – on vacation with their kids, complaining of delayed flights, marveling at a delicious meal, or lamenting an exceptionally poor job of presidential debate moderation.  And I have found that were I to meet my high school classmates for the first time today, my impressions of many of them would be vastly different from the perspective I had in high school.

Getting to know these people all over again through status updates and profile pics has helped me see them with fresh eyes.  People with whom I once had nothing in common, or who intimidated the bejeezus out of me are now just people; people who might share my interests in cooking, or my left-leaning politics, or my passion for travel, or our roles as parents.  Now that I can see these people as people, rather than adolescent archetypes, I think I could enjoy them so much more.  And since I don’t have to waste time asking them what they’re up to – I know who’s been elected to the city council, who’s traveling the world, who’s landed a few national commercials, and who’s started her own business – I can skip over the logistical catch-up and have more interesting and meaningful conversations.

Call me crazy, but I’m kind of looking forward to 2016.

2 Responses to “Sooooo….. How’ve You Been?”

  1. Jeff Says:

    Gale – Glad my reunion didn’t go unnoticed, and yes it was #45. As much as I enjoy the reunions, I didn’t go to my first one until my 20th. Your mother was about 9 months pregnant with you at the time of #10, and I’m sure there were good reasons for missing the others. Facebook probably makes things easier, simply because you don’t have the dread fear that you’re going to show up and nobody will know you.

    As the years go by there is less social posturing, which is good, and the shared experience of high school is a great common denominator. As always, I enjoyed your post.


  2. Gale Says:

    Dad – Thanks for your comment. I remember going to Mom’s 20th with her (I was eight) and she explained that by then “people just are who they are” and she didn’t feel the need to posture or compete, as you say. To your point about being recognized, with FB I already know how people have changed physically. But I think FB may also take the sting off of some of the more unfortunate life events that people may feel self-conscious about. We already know who’s gotten divorced or lost their job. So maybe those people who’ve been dealt a rough hand can come to reunions without feeling like Debbie Downer. Those things have already been dispensed with via FB and we can get on with happier topics. I hope this will be the case, anyway.