On Saturday, I went to my 10 year high school reunion. A part of me wondered, in the digital age, are reunions even necessary anymore? Most people from my graduating class are on Facebook or other social media. Those who I’ve been at all interested in keeping in contact with I’ve friended on those sites and can see their updates and interact with them. In the past, high school reunions have served as places to reconnect with old friends who you wouldn’t have been able to get in contact with in other ways. While in a sense reunions still serve to reconnect people, there isn’t necessarily much to reconnect with since the majority of us know what everyone else is up to. Though I can’t say for certain whether or not high school reunions are still important in the digital age, the dynamic was definitely influenced by the use of social media by my former classmates.
Socializing was both more and less awkward because of the inherent familiarity we all had with each other. There was this odd acknowledgement of knowing what was going on in each other’s lives, but not knowing how to talk about it. We had either already commented about it online or we hadn’t and didn’t want any residual awkwardness from having seen those updates but not responded on social media at the time. There also weren’t good icebreakers, so to speak, because most of what would make for a good one – families, kids, jobs, etc. — was stuff people already knew because they’d posted about it on Facebook. However, there wasn’t the awkwardness of old friends interacting like strangers because of the familiarity we all had with each other because of social media. It was easy to pick back up with old friends and acquaintances because, even though we may not have seen each other in person in many years, we had never truly lost touch thanks to the Internet.
In a way there wasn’t as much to talk about because, for those of us who are still either good or casual friends on social media, we all know what each other are up to. Whereas in the past you might not have known a former friend was married and had children, now those life updates and pictures are chronicled all over Facebook. In some ways it allowed for people who were good friends in high school to have more in-depth conversations with each other, which was nice. But for those casual acquaintances, it seemed like people ran out of things to talk about rather quickly.
Maybe because of that, people seemed to stick to the same groups they did when they were in high school. Though even my mom admitted that people sort of fell into the same cliques at her high school reunions, it seemed magnified because social media has allowed us to keep the same friends groups we once did. Admittedly, I spent most of my time with my best friends and people we had been close to because they were easy to talk to and it was familiar. Of course people change, and people were re-introducing themselves to one another, but everyone seemed to fall right into the same groups they did 10 years ago. Perhaps that’s a sign of social media’s influence on high school reunions, but perhaps not. Mainly, there just wasn’t a sense of urgency to reconnect with anyone. There was this unspoken feeling that if we missed someone, we could just catch up with them on Facebook later. Though that notion might have stifled some socializing aspects of the reunion, it was also comforting knowing that social media has made it so much easier to keep in touch.
Was it worth it to go to my high school reunion? I’m not sure. An open bar would have helped. I did get to reconnect with a few friends who I still cared for but had fallen out of touch with because of life circumstances, as well as those who had moved out-of-town. Some people who I wasn’t particularly close with in high school I actually had a good time talking to. Then there are those people you want nothing to do with, and well, Saturday night didn’t change my mind. At the same time, many people I was hoping to see didn’t come, and I didn’t end up crossing paths with a few people I was hoping to talk to. All in all, it was a mixed bag, but I don’t regret going. A high school reunion is a bizarre life experience, with or without the influence of social media, and I’m glad I got to experience at least one in my lifetime. And thanks to Facebook, it won’t be another 10 years before I see some of these people again.