I'll find out myself on Saturday evening. You see, I'm traveling back down to southern Connecticut where I grew up to attend my 25th high school reunion - and Facebook has added a fascinating dimension to the gathering.
A year or two back (it may even be more now), some people from my hometown created a Facebook Group for people who "grew up in the 70s and 80s" in our town. I joined that group and through that reconnected with a good number of folks that I literally hadn't communicated with in most of 2 decades. (Hmm... using "decades" makes me feel old!) Over time that communication has led to multiple phone calls, great email/message exchanges and even a couple of face-to-face meetings in different parts of the world.
Then maybe a year or so ago as the excellent organizer started planning this Saturday's reunion event, she set up a Facebook event, sent out Facebook messages and otherwise integrated Facebook into the outreach she was doing to find and alert class members. There were something like 300 people in my high school graduating class and obviously over 25 years we've drifted around the world.
The result has been that I've reconnected on Facebook with a good number of people who I can truly call "friends". I grew up from birth in the same town as did many of them... and we shared the same classes, teachers and community activities in our town of then around 25,000 people. We liked each other and hated each other and liked each other again... and all the other dynamics that happen in longstanding communities.
The fascinating part, to me, about the reconnection on Facebook is that - for the people on Facebook - I now go into the reunion already knowing many of the small details that you typically start out with... "what have you been doing for the past 25 years?"... is already partly or mostly answered. In many cases, I already know:
- where they are living now
- what people look like now (though not all have posted recent photos ;-)
- who is married, divorced, remarried, single, etc.
- who has kids and who doesn't
- if they have kids, how old the kids are, what they look like, what activities they are into
- what people do for a living now, and potentially what kind of career they have had
- what special highlights people have experienced (ex. books written, awards received...)
- what people like to do in their spare time
- who likes to place games on Facebook
- who has an active social life
- what music they like
- in some cases, their political or religious views
The interesting part is that this knowledge has come to me NOT from me going out and reading their individual profiles or anything focused like that... but rather just from the "ambient intimacy" of having their updates appear in my Facebook NewsFeed over the past year or two.
They, of course, also probably know way more than they ever needed or wanted to know about me, given my prolific online content creation, be it writing, video, audio, etc.
Will this make the reunion better? worse? the same? I don't know... in some cases I know we'll be able to start out at a deeper level. In at least one case, I know now to avoid political discussions. :-) It will be interesting to see.
Another note is that a good number of people are not on Facebook and so, with them, the conversation does start back at that question: "so, what have you been doing for the past 25 years?" Does that create a disparity between the "strongly connected" set of people and those who are more weakly connected?
All interesting points to ponder as we consider the continued blurring of our lives and how Facebook and other online tools/services continue to change how we connect and communicate.
I'm pretty sure, though, that I won't be pondering any of that Saturday night... I'm just looking forward to an evening getting together with some old friends... :-)
What about you? Have you attended a reunion for a high school or college (or other group) after connecting on Facebook? How did it change (or not) the event for you?