In 2016 I will have graduated high school thirty years ago.
I have only attended one class reunion (10th) since I graduated. I believe there has been one every five years rather than every ten for my class. It was the first time I faced (In person) many of my former classmates being comfortable in my own skin. I took my (then) boyfriend, although we went with two women I graduated with as their significant others weren’t attending. I took some (albeit petty) delight in saying ‘And this is my boyfriend….’ to people that cringed at the words (there were a few), recalling years of cringing myself at hateful words and slurs that were tossed at me. What a difference ten years can make.
I also had the chance to see people who I always got along with and ten years separation did nothing to change that. I remember my friend Pam (who I am still connected with through social media) asking if anyone had given me a hard time bringing another man to the reunion, and my saying ‘not really’ – and her response was ‘Good…that’s exactly the way it should be.’ I had conversations with people I’d only really known in passing….and even people I’d historically not cared for very much. I know that for me it was a very cathartic experience…very healing to be with those people having ‘grown’ as a person myself…and seeing how much many of them had grown as well.
Being a graduate from the 1980’s, social media like Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and Pinterest and all the rest didn’t exist for us. For many/most it was pretty much the only time you saw and got to catch up with people. You didn’t have instant updates of peoples’ job changes and house purchases and see the pictures of their children and even grandchildren every single day. These were, in my mind, the topics of conversation at reunions.
Nowadays we just log on to our social media website and scroll through this information any time we feel like it. We don’t have to wait ten years, ten months, ten hours, or even ten seconds to get it. Catching up with dozens of people is almost like speed dating now….thanks to technology.
I am grateful to social media for helping me re-connect and stay connected to hundreds of people. I cannot even begin to imagine having the time to stay in touch with all the people I do via social media. I’ve made new acquaintances that I really like….I’ve at least seen photos of second and third cousins scattered about the country…and I’ve learned what became of people that I lost track of somehow before social media existed.
That said, at times I feel as though this instant access we have to our friends and loved ones is precluding the impetus to actually spend face to face time with people. I think the last (25th) reunion that my class had there were roughly thirty people in attendance. Out of a graduating class of more than 100. I wondered at the time (and still do) if social media is contributing to the decline in interest in and attendance of class reunions for those who have social media accounts and use them frequently. In March I attended a concert with one of my closest friends and she was in the midst of making plans for her 30th class reunion this summer. When I asked her a few months later if it had happened or not yet, she informed me that the whole thing was cancelled due to lack of interest.
For myself I can say that part of what’s kept me from reunions since the 10th is timing and distance (as I’m sure is the case for others), not a lack of desire to see people. Facebook is great (it’s the only social media website I use), but Facebook doesn’t hug…doesn’t laugh…doesn’t ‘sparkle’ like the eyes of people I know and have known for many years when they talk about something they feel passionately about. Facebook updates don’t let you listen to the pride in a parent or grandparent’s voice when they discuss a major accomplishment a child has made. Facebook lets you experience someone’s memories, if they share them, but being face to face with someone, spending time in person with them, lets you make new ones.
Depending on the date (and if there even is one scheduled) I’d love to attend a reunion next year and spend some time with people that I’ve not seen for many years, irrespective of whether I know what they ate for breakfast all the prior week and what color they painted their front door the day before. I’d like to give some people a hug for things I know they had difficulty with or losses they suffered over time. I’d like to have a lengthy conversation with someone I’d not have given to/gotten from the time of day thirty years ago because we were different people at the time.
I don’t know if my ‘theory’ about social media lessening the interest in reunions is correct or not. There are ‘articles’ you can read about it. But for me, a guy who couldn’t WAIT to get out of high school and away from many people and now looks forward to seeing some of those same people in person, it comes down to one basic thing.
I’m young enough to enjoy social media. I’m also old enough to know it’s not the end-all and be-all of keeping in touch with people.