Will Facebook Kill the Reunion?
So there was a reason I asked if you had ever been back to visit an old school, either a campus visit or for a reunion.
When you go to someone else’s reunion, you can’t help but think of your old spaces and reunion opportunities. The ones you’ve attended, and the ones you’ve left in the past.
Working backwards, I have been back to my graduate school campus three times. One time was for my defense (I moved before I was finished and came back to defend), one time was for a reunion of sorts — a yearly conference that serves as a reunion because so many alum attend, and one time was on our own with the kids.
I’ve been back to my old college three times. The first came a year after I graduated, when I knew a lot of people still living in Madison. The next time came years later when my brother was in a play. And the last time came another year or so after that when I returned with Josh.
I’ve been back to two high school reunions: my 5-year and my 10-year. I skipped my 20-year. I have very complicated feelings about it, not sure if it was the right thing or not. But what’s done is done; you can’t rewind time and attend a reunion.
This is what I’ve noticed.
I love going back to the physical space of my old college and graduate school. I sort of don’t want to see any of my old friends who haven’t remained in my life since that point and grown with me, so I’m not drawn to the idea of a reunion. I mean, I like revisiting the memories of them when I’m in the physical space, but I actually think it’s a good thing that I’ve never really coupled revisiting the campus with revisiting people at the same time.
Which is where we get to my theory. I don’t miss the people. I mean, I do miss the people, but I don’t miss the people.
I think people show up in your life when you need them, and in that way, Facebook is almost like a clot stopping your body’s natural process of shedding old cells once they’re no longer needed to stop a bleed. People change, and either they change with us and know our strengths and weaknesses in context, or they change apart from us and only know the old versions of ourselves.
After each stage of life, I’ve tried to hold onto the people who were most important to me. Sometimes I succeeded, other times they drifted away. I’ve been grateful for every single person I’ve counted as a friend in each stage of life, and in the moment, those friendships were intense and meaningful and full of love.
And they’re still full of love in the sense that I don’t think energy like that dissipates; it sort of lingers around the corpse of the dead friendship, reminding you that the friendship was once vibrant and animated. It’s like the soul of the friendship still hangs around those places like ghosts.
So I love going to the physical space of an old school. And remembering how I felt in that old space, and the people who were important to me, and the things that I learned. Separate from the campus, I like reconnecting with an old friend in a new context, or catching up via Facebook or a cup of coffee. But I don’t like the idea of combining them; of attending a reunion at the school and everyone coming back at the same time. I think it would be too intense for me. Too confusing. It would feel too much like resurrection, and in trying to bring something back, perhaps ruining or changing my memories of our first time together.
Then there are people like Josh who couldn’t imagine going back to his campus without seeing all those people. It was the people who made the place special, and without them, the buildings were just buildings. I think now that he has broken the seal, returned after a 20+ year absence, he could go back again and again. But he wanted his first time to be with people.
I think, for me, the thing that becomes special is the place. And for Josh, the thing that becomes special is the people.
I feel ambivalence towards Facebook. On one hand, it’s great that it keeps us loosely connected so that you can hold onto more people from each stage of life. But on the other, you hold onto more people from each stage of life; people who should have floated into the background of your memories instead of popping up front and center in your feed while you’re drinking your coffee.
If we’re all connected via Facebook, what is the point of a reunion? There’s no reason to catch people up on the here and now. Is it to simply to reminisce face-to-face?
If that is the case, I almost prefer to go to the campus on my own timeline, returning when I need to seek that physical space again, and not necessarily when a reunion is scheduled.
So that’s what has been going through my brain for the last week or so: why some people want to return more to the space and some people want to return more to the people. And then in between all of that: how does Facebook change the way we process life when the past is never fully in the past?
A side note: tomorrow is #MicroblogMonday. Get writing.