In a way, the high school reunion is as unashamedly American as apple pie and Chevrolet. Go on — ask your parents if they had one. I’d wager that the majority of them would say that they did, and in fact, they probably retain quite a few memories. Someone was shockingly large; someone was stunningly beautiful; someone had completely fallen off of the wagon. The high school reunion’s primary allure was the possibility — nay, the probability — of a few shockers, coupled with the underlying desire to show up and impress the folks who ragged on you with devilish persistence back in the day. Seeing anyone, let alone someone you once spent a great deal of time with, after a decade of absence is sure to be an interesting occasion.
Unfortunately for this generation, such a spectacle is nearly impossible to still find.
I wrapped up my high school examinations in 2003. Like most, I failed to express the proper amount of gratitude to my parents for refusing to be angered after being extorted for some hokey outfit that I was to wear once across a stage and never again. I remember being enthralled by the thought of never having to again pay dues to one or two particular instructors, while also dreading the thought of heading off to university while my girlfriend (now wife) hung back to finish her final year.
I was setting off to NC State with one of my best mates from high school, and I figured that my other pals wouldn’t venture too far out of sight. Truthfully, I didn’t give that aspect of it too much thought. After all, I’d be reacquainted with the lot of ‘em in 10 years if nothing else.
That, of course, never happened.
While I was getting situated in Raleigh, Mark Zuckerberg and co. were toiling away on what would one day become the planet’s most well-known social network. In 2004, Facebook was only open to a select window of schools. After I arrived at college, I heard of a few friends signing up. A smaller school just down the road wasn’t yet supported, and I vividly remember the hubbub surrounding a proposed inclusion date. When your school was admitted to Facebook, it was a deal.
Eventually, I caved and plugged in my @ncsu.edu email address, signed on, and began adding friends. It took some time to finally confirm a few misdirected souls who somehow ended up in Chapel Hill or Durham, but it didn’t take long before every pal I ever truly cared about in high school was popping up in my feed.
Little did I know that the seeds for the reunion’s destruction were already being sowed.
…and it feels so good….
8 years later, I received an email. It was a Facebook invitation to join a private group — my high school’s Class of 2003 was fixing to reunite for one more night on the (small) town. Quite a lot of folks confirmed, actually. The goal was to get everyone’s attention a solid year in advance, as to clear schedules and make travel plans.
It was going to be stellar. It was a high school reunion, man. We’d all gather back in our old stomping grounds, secretly judge each other, share tales of laughter and woe, and consider just how great those good old days really were.
The only problem? We’d all been doing that on a daily basis for the past decade.
For as wonderful as Facebook is at keeping us connected to souls we’d otherwise lose contact with, it also removes the allure of “catching up.” For friends who refresh the site as frequently as the majority of users, it’s fairly easy to keep track of highlights from all of your friends’ lives. Facebook has made it impossible to see a connected friend 10 years later and feel as if any time has passed. Some would argue that’s a boon, but it single-handedly destroyed my high school reunion.
A month before the reunion was to occur, I received a note that I knew was coming. The whole thing was cancelled. Evidently, only a handful of folks had actually forked out money to help pay for the food and venue rental. Everyone else was satisfied with just keeping up via Facebook.
You could argue that there’s no substitute for IRL meetings, but in the age of digital connectedness, one has to wonder if the traditional reunion has a place. After all, what would you talk about at such a gathering? Everything of note that any old friend could ever say, you’d already know. Even their looks wouldn’t be news. You’ve seen them age, you’ve seen their children, and you’ve watched their career develop.
Au revoir, I suppose.