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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.

14 comments

1 Rajiv Bakshi { 06.07.15 at 8:40 am }

I have studied in Sainik School Kapurthala from 1961 to 1967. I attended the great union of my School in 2011. It was real fun meeting new faces and some old which I could hardly recognise . I have now written a Book on short stories: Journey from Guwahati to Machhiwara which has been published by Notion Press @ Rs 200 . I am so Happy that my Book has been kept in the School Library . The Library is in one of the room of the Jajatjit Palace .

2 magpie { 06.07.15 at 9:58 am }

i think it depends on a lot of things. you couldn’t pay me to attend a high school reunion, even though my brother still lives in that town. but i go to every one of my (every five years) college reunions. that’s not just about my class… but about the 2s and 7s before and after me. it’s really affirming to set foot on the campus for that.

3 Infertile Girl { 06.07.15 at 10:35 am }

Funny enough my 10 year high school reunion is in two weeks and I’m not going. I know there are some people that are getting together at a local bar afterwards and that’s the only part I might consider going to because it’ll be mostly the people I hung out with anyways. I don’t really have any desire to see the other people I vaguely knew and see what they are up to.

You’re right about Facebook ruining these sorts of things because the people I would see are ones that I have on Facebook and so I basically already know what they’re up to. My hesitation for going to see some of those people is that none of them know I’m pregnant because I have not shared that on Facebook and I don’t really feel like dealing with everyone’s reaction in seeing me and my big belly and answering all of their questions.

I found I moved on from my high school group rather quickly and I don’t have any great attachment to the people or the place, but that’s just my nature.

4 Laurel Regan { 06.07.15 at 10:42 am }

I think I’m a bit of an oddball, in that I have no desire to go to any kind of school reunion – either for the place or the people. I’m happy to catch up with old friends on FB, and even meet up with them if I happen to be back in my former city, but apart from that I’m content to revisit my memories in my head.

5 Jenn { 06.07.15 at 1:06 pm }

Your facebook description is spot on for me. It feels unnatural and stagnant and fake to see these peoples’ daily lives when you aren’t even in each others lives anymore. Friends tend to fade out from the different times in my life and that is okay. I used to be saddened by this but I get it now (being nearly 30 and oh so wise ;-)). I closed my account and feel all the lighter and healthier for it.

6 Middle Girl { 06.07.15 at 1:15 pm }

I am even more of an oddball in that I have no desire to go back nor do I seek any out those past connections on FB. A few from my high school and early college experience sent “friend” requests which I denied or ignored.

7 KeAnne { 06.07.15 at 1:47 pm }

I have mixed feelings about reunions. My high school never had a 10th because we were late Gen X slackers like that. There was a 15th, but I didn’t attend. I loved that I was able to see the pics on FB to see what I had/hadn’t missed. My 20th is this fall and I plan to attend. I’m not really sure why since some of the people I’d love to see (and who aren’t on FB) won’t be there most likely. I guess I feel like the 20th reunion is a milestone I don’t want to miss? And while I’m FB friends w/ a lot of my classmates, I don’t talk to a lot of them, so it might be nice to converse in person. I attended my 15th college reunion last year and it was odd because I didn’t hang out with most who were there – my friends didn’t attend – but it was nice to feel like I was part of a larger community even if I shared few memories with them.

TL;DR: sometimes I like to be a joiner. Rarely, but it happens.

8 torthuil { 06.07.15 at 2:40 pm }

Reading your last two entries I’m so impressed by these schools and colleges where there is so much bonding between classmates and with the college. That was so not my experience that I can’t relate at all. OK, I did make some close friends but have zero identification with “class.” Many reasons, some of it campus culture and some of it likely me. I don’t have any regrets but kind of wonder what it would be like to feel such a bond with an old school

9 Rachel { 06.07.15 at 4:50 pm }

My high school 10 year reunion would be this year but they decided not to do one because Facebook keeps everyone connected anyway. I have few friends that are still around from those days and I don’t connect with people who aren’t actively in my life on Facebook – but I kind of think if we didn’t bother to stay friends for the last 10 years then it doesn’t matter anyway. I think if they were meant to be in my life then they will be. My University 10 yr reunion is not for another 5 years but I’m not likely to attend that either. I loved the school but I don’t feel a need to revisit.

10 Working mom of 2 { 06.07.15 at 9:35 pm }

Feeling old here after reading the comments…went to my 10 & 20 yr HS reunion…this year would be 30 (I skipped a grade so subtract 1) but so far it seems no one is organizing one.

As for college, I went to a UC with at the time 8 separate colleges. All they’ve had is general campus wide reunions. I went to my 15 year and there were like maybe 2 others from my year who of course I don’t know. Kinda sad I’m really not in touch with anyone from college beyond 1 person on my holiday card list. I’m back in my hometown and there’s a few people from HS that work in the same building and I occasionally see others around town.

11 Justine { 06.07.15 at 11:41 pm }

Well, I didn’t much like my high school place OR people. I go see my high school English teachers about twice a year, and they conjure it all to my satisfaction, in the most positive way I could hope for. 🙂

College was more about the friends than the place for me … we’re scattered everywhere now, but Facebook doesn’t really do the friendships justice, so it IS nice to reconnect in person sometimes to feel that intensity we experienced together. I don’t think Facebook will kill what we really want to get from a reunion.

12 Ann Z { 06.08.15 at 10:26 am }

Hmm. I realize I have a very different perspective, in large part because I now work at the college that I attended. So the place has totally shifted for me. I still sometimes get hit by nostalgia when I see some of the locations that were extremely important to me at that time of life, but now that I’ve worked here for 11 years, I have a lot more professional work memories in many of the buildings (not the dorms, I don’t go in to those, but I have been in all of the academic buildings as a librarian, rather than a student). But I still love coming to every single reunion and seeing all the people. There’s something really different about the energy during those 4 days on campus. Half of it is the fun of seeing other people connect again, or just talking with a random person from a different class about how the campus was when they were a student. For me, there’s something very magical about the people and the location. I do wonder if there’s a difference in people who went to relatively small, residential colleges where the size of the class is small enough that you really can know most of your classmates, and so much happened in such a small geographic. I keep up with a lot of friends on facebook, but I get chills when I read the list of people coming to reunion and I see who I know that will be there. That’s something that facebook doesn’t even come close to capturing.

13 Josey { 06.08.15 at 1:28 pm }

I LOOOOVE reunions, and am actually the one who planned my 5 and 10 year high school reunions. I live 1,100 miles from where I grew up, and getting back together with people from high school brings me great joy. I honestly haven’t “friended” most of them on FB b/c I keep that circle small(ish), so maybe that’s why I’m still interested in seeing them IRL? It’s not about the place to me at all – definitely the people.

I haven’t made it to any of my college reunions (5 or 10) but it was simply a matter of logistics and income and timing. I would have loved to go, and definitely hope to make it to my 15 in a couple of years.

I definitely agree that FB has allowed people to “hang on” in my life more than they would have otherwise. This post makes me think it’s time to do some purging of that list. I always feel lighter when I do.

14 loribeth { 06.08.15 at 5:30 pm }

Facebook is fine, but there is still nothing like seeing people face to face, especially your really good friends. Plus, I am of an earlier generation — some of us have embraced Facebook & others have not… and even if we are FB friends, some of them rarely post. I would not want to be FB friends with some of the people I went to high school with — but it might still be mildly interesting to see them at a reunion & see how well they’ve aged (or not, lol) and find out what they’ve been up to.

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