I just got off the phone with a newspaper reporter from California. She's writing an article (see SacBee.com link below) about the effect of social media on high school and college reunions. I've worked in universities for more than two decades, so I probably should have stuck to that aspect of her topic. But I talked about Facebook and high school reunions instead.
Because today I am flying to New York for the 30th reunion of my high school graduating class.
I attended a small public high school about 20 miles from New York City. The high school itself has long since moved to a new building, and there has never been an alumni director or an alumni organization of any kind. But 30 years later my classmates and I are eager to see each other, to make up stories about how cool we were, and to check on those yearbook "superlatives" (Spoiler: "Most likely to succeed" wasn't me!).
What I told the reporter, simply, was this: My high school reunion might not be taking place if it weren't for Facebook. The popular online platform made it easy to find a place where the vast majority of class members spend time on the internet. Facebook members reached most of the non-Facebook users via email.
Despite its reunion, there's no such organization as "the Nyack High School class of '82." But there's a community of friends and acquaintances with that name. And a very small number of dedicated volunteers, over the last several months, orchestrated the weekend of official and unofficial events that form our reunion. Significantly, during the weeks before the reunion, those of us active on Facebook have shared literally thousands of messages, Likes, photos, and comments with each other.
[Once you're friends with someone,
you want to spend time visiting with them]
Over the last few years, some have said that Facebook's rise would doom physical reunions: "I've already heard everything about this person online – what is there left to talk about when I see them?"
But many realize that they aren't learning everything about people via Facebook. They're just becoming friends (again, or for the first time). And once you're friends with someone, you want to spend time visiting with them.
Social software doesn't complicate alumni activities. Used creatively and persistently, online networks merely enable a predictable, long-standing form of human behavior: hanging out together on the weekend.
Photo: Vintage postcard of my high school
Is Facebook cutting demand for high school reunions? (sacbee.com)
Who needs a reunion? I've got Facebook (nytimes.com)
Is Facebook replacing the need for reunions? (allfacebook.com)