Facebook and the Death of High School Reunions
Blow off your high school reunion? You're not the only one. And you can blame Facebook for the death of a once nostalgic event.
If you stayed home and chatted online in your jammies instead of squeezing into a brand-new outfit in the hopes of showing your high-school love what he or she missed out by dumping you all those years ago -- you're not alone. While there are still people who head out for their reunions, many are settling for seeing photos on Facebook and reading status updates to keep in touch.
Gone are the days when you could, like those gang in the movie "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion," make up a fabulous career and wealth for ourselves because people won't know any better. Everyone knows those girls didn't really invent Post-Its, and all someone has to do is Google you to know you didn't either.
"Social networking has robbed us of our nostalgia," Michael Fox told the New York Times. He went to his reunion to see his classmates now that they're adults, but admitted he was disappointed because he already knew all he wanted to know through Facebook.
"Even as a borderline user of social networking, I have a pretty good grasp of where people are, what they do, their family life, etc.," he told the newspaper. "So a lot of the mystery of the traditional reunion was missing."
Facebook, with its constant updates and photos, is the biggest buzz-kill -- there's simply no need for people to travel hundreds of miles and back through time to see which classmates have lost their hair or who will never fit in those tight Calvin Kleins again. All it takes is a Facebook profile and a quick search for classmates to see that they've changed as much as you have.
On the upside, Facebook can reconnect lost acquaintances, even if you never got along. As such, you can have a reunion of sorts every time you log on to the social network. It can also bring up resentments from years gone by, leading those who may have gone to a reunion out of curiosity -- or to even show they've bypassed the bullies and mean girls of their youth -- to decide to just stay home.
"Why would I drive 1,000 miles to go to a reunion when these people won't even talk to me on Facebook?" said one woman, in response to a question posted on Facebook for this article. "They wouldn't give me the time of day in high school and they still don't on Facebook, so why should I spend money to go see them?"
Donna DeFilippis, owner and president of Reunions of America, said Facebook has taken the "fundamental mystery" away from reunions. Meanwhile, organizers say attendance and the number of reunions are dropping -- whether due to social media or people having difficulty from the recession -- or both.
Reunions are expensive, but Facebook is free. And by the time you pay for reunion tickets -- often costing $50 or more -- transportation, lodging and more -- it can cost several hundred dollars. Facebook, with its instant all-the-time access, proves an irresistible alternative.
People still go to reunions, and ironically, organizers use Facebook to reach and bring people together. Even if you join Facebook groups for your class and never make the trip, you can still enjoy seeing old photos and reconnect with people left long ago.
Still, Facebook, whether at home on your computer or on the go on your smartphone, lacks a human connection leaving the house can bring. According to studies, the loneliest people gravitate to Facebook, and users ages 25 to 34 -- or those who would be attending their first reunions -- say they're often lonely.
Whether a trip to a reunion would only depress them even more if they saw more-successful classmates or if it would make them feel less lonely is a toss-up, but the study shows that even constant Facebook connections don't take the place of real human contact.
Some people I asked on Facebook say they wouldn't consider missing their reunion for the world. After all, the trip gave them a chance to meet with old friends, pose for photos, tell old jokes and relive -- if only for a short night -- a life that was so much simpler.
In addition, meeting up lets you see each other as you really are -- not just through highly edited Facebook profiles -- so you can appreciate them for the adults they'd become, and not the adults they present themselves as online.
Mark Silva, who heads Great Unions, one of the largest reunion planning companies in the U.S., told NPR social media has even changed his company's marketing pitch -- from "Find out what became of Sally" to "Unplug for a night."
He said Facebook can help you make personal, rather than electronic connections, and if you can get past the website formalities, you can learn more by meeting up in person. Facing classmates, though, may just show you that in reality, those who caused them so much trouble back may no longer be people worth worrying about -- or they may just be worthy of befriending on Facebook when you back to your lives. ♦
Categories: Social Media