Has Facebook Killed the High School Reunion?

  • SumoMe

High school ranks as my least favorite life experience, particularly because I was not a huge fan of high school me. The education system at my school itself was a complete joke.  A few years ago, it was reported on the news that my school rated academically unacceptable in the latest rankings.  No surprise there. During my senior year, we started reading George Orwell’s 1984 and had to change books half way through because the majority of the class couldn’t understand it.

 I wasn’t what you would call a “joiner,” which is not meant to imply I was anti-social.  If there was a good party on the weekend, you could definitely count me in. It just means that I was more likely to mock organized student activities than be a part of them.  Which is why it is still entirely unclear to me how I ended up on the planning committee for my recent high school reunion?

 We started planning the reunion about six months in advance.  We had about 400 people in our graduating class, and assumed that if 25% of our class attended, and some brought spouses, we would have somewhere between 150 and 200 people.  (Sorry to math out on you.) When we picked the venue and worked out our financial plan, we needed about 70 people to show up to break even on our fixed costs.  Over the six-month period, we sent out emails, an Evite and set up a Facebook event.  Three weeks out we found ourselves with only 35 people paid and confirmed, and the prospect of having to personally cut a large check to cover fixed costs.  As it turns out, our rival high school was also having their reunion on the same weekend.  After talking to their planning committee, we found they were also having issues with attendance.

 I started thinking about the reasons why people even go to reunions.  People scatter, lose touch and the reunion is a good opportunity to catch up with old friends.  That sounds so nice, doesn’t it?  What I think really draws people to the high school reunion is a morbid curiosity to see what happened to people.  Did they gain weight, are they divorced, are they successful?  Did Mr. Most Likely to Succeed become a success, or did he crash and burn.  I believe there are some people who are less interested in seeing what happened to old friends, and more interested in seeing what happened to the people they maybe weren’t so close with, and maybe didn’t even like.

That’s where Facebook comes in.  Whereas you once had to travel to your High School reunion to get the scoop on your former classmates, today, all you need is a Facebook account.  From an anonymous, safe distance, you can follow the lives of you former classmates.  Without leaving your house or having a face-to-face conversation you can find out what people look like.  You can see if your old BFF is married and has kids.  Want to know where your high school ex went on vacation this year? Facebook can tell you.  Did your old nemesis pack on 50 lbs?  A few clicks and you will know.  The amount of information people share on Facebook leaves very little to the imagination.

 How did it go? The night before my reunion, I told my husband that I didn’t want to go.  Because I was on the planning committee, I had been emailed the list of people going, and the few people I was close with decided not to attend.  Unfortunately, my attendance was not optional.  I told my husband we would make an obligatory appearance and be in and out in an hour.

 Maybe it was because I had such low expectations, or because the cocktails were good, but I had an awesome time. I was worried that low attendance would result in a lame event; instead it felt intimate.  I had a conversation with every single person at the reunion that night.  I congratulated an old friend on her recent graduation from nursing school (I read about it on Facebook).  I talked to a girl that I had known since elementary school.  She reminded me that I was at a party at her house when she had her first kiss; truth or dare.  I also ran into my middle school best friend, who told my husband some great stories.  There were so many things that I had completely forgotten.  The kind of things you only remember during conversation (of the face-to-face variety) with old friends.

 By some miracle we had well over 70 people.  Several people paid at the door, and although the procrastinators really had us sweating, we ended up coming out ahead. Our next reunion is going to be a happy hour.  Not one of us wants to take on the liability and stress again.

 In the end, my husband and I shut the place down.  I was so glad that I went.  So, did Facebook kill my high school reunion?  No, maybe it just weeded out the people who are satisfied with skimming the surface of their past.  One thing is certain in my mind; it would not have been the same event if hundreds of people had shown up.   I was not close with the girls on the planning committee while I was in High School.  Yet now I have plans to meet up with one of the girls on my trip to Austin in a few weeks.  Funny how thing work out.

 I would love to hear your thoughts.  Curious to see if others are having similar experiences with reunions.

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  1. I really enjoyed reading your post! You’re spot on with this theory, but you reminded me that Facebook doesn’t tell the whole story.

    • Jennifer Coy says:

      Thanks so much Barbara! You are beyond a doubt correct; Facebook just skims the surface of life. You only get to see what people choose to show you.

  2. I can completely relate, but for me, Facebook actually enhanced the reunion. I got caught up in the Facebook spirit and friended a lot of high school classmates, so in the 5 or so years between Facebook’s inception and my 10-year reunion, there was ample opportunity to keep tabs on each other.

    Still, I was a big geek in high school, and I kind of wanted to prove to my classmates that I’m not anymore. I was definitely looking forward to turning up looking really cute with my hot husband on my arm. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly, and any nerves I had about being accepted by the “cool kids” were forgotten (particularly with cheap drinks and a generous bar tab).

    So, even though Facebook lets you see and be seen and comment on each others’ posts, it doesn’t beat a party. And I won’t lie, it did not suck to hear people say, “You look great!”

  3. Marianne Cone says:

    Loved this post and it resonated but just a little differently. I had only been to one reunion (10th) since high school — as you said, lost track and scattered. About a year or so before my 40th reunion I began to reconnect with high school friends — some I had been close to, some not so close — and it was a blast getting reacquainted. I think in our case FB facilitated a better reunion — we had already gotten reacquainted, albeit skimming the surface, it was enough to propel us to the next level once we were together. And on FB I had developed an appreciation and respect for a lot of the folks I passed by in high school. I also heard a few “you look great” comments but since I was recovering from major orthopedic surgery and hobbling around on crutches, my suspicion is there may have been some pity there! As it turns out, I’m flying back east next week to visit my high school bff and attend the Auburn – Texas A&M game — thanks to FB and the high school reunion!

    • Jennifer Coy says:

      It is nice to hear that in some cases Facebook has enhanced the reunion experience. Maybe the experience will also evolve as we get more distance from our high school graduation.

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