Some more thoughts on the “Facebook/Reunion” Question

Since yesterday morning when an article on the topic was posted on Bits, I’ve been thinking about how Facebook may change the dynamic of college reunions. The author makes the following justification for skipping out on her upcoming 5-year reunion:

A few weeks ago I received an invite to my five-year college reunion. My reply was swift, unhesitating and final: No, thank you.

I have no desire to join the rest of my fellow University of Virginia graduates in sipping mint juleps on the sun-dappled Lawn and taking tours of the Rotunda. Why would I?

I already know which of my former classmates spent their post-graduate years planting gardens in the Dominican Republic for the Peace Corps, which took off for the West Coast. I’ve seen photographs documenting medical missions to South Africa, vacations to Ecuador and endless albums of wedding receptions and gurgling babies.

Blame Facebook.

The tone of the commenters was interesting because there was a divide in opinion, and thanks to Alumni Futures for summarizing the conversation. I left one myself, but I’m still thinking about this dilemma this morning. It’s an interesting debate, but I fundamentally disagree with the author – I have all intention in the world of attending my 5 year. The thing is, I’d actually argue that Facebook makes reunions have a more lasting impact.

Take a moment I had earlier this weekend. I was sitting next to one of my bosses while we were teaching a workshop at James Madison University (pretty perfect setting for this debate, if you ask me), and he turns to me and exclaims, “Wow, my old high school forensics coach just friended me on Facebook.” Now, after the necessary commentary on speech and debate, Monte accepted the request and we moved on. While it’s great to reconnect, that person is probably no more than an occasional status message to him.

That’s how Facebook changes the game at reunions.

Trust me, you would have been searching for many exits to that conversation with a long lost friend from a club you hardly remember being in. And, fundamentally, while there’s always the “look how I’m doing” motivation for going to reunions, that really can’t be all.

By staying plugged in to Facebook, we’re actually skipping that step. Yeah, so there’s a few people in my friend list who I may or may not have been really close with. But that’s not the folks I’m going to reunion to see. I mentioned to a friend yesterday in a face-the-facts moment: why fake interest? Go to reunion to be back on campus with the close friends you met there. Actually – use the social network for the savings in social capital at the five year.

I can’t wait to rejoin my classmates – there’ll be a few faces who I probably have missed out on, regardless of our Facebook connections. The online participation will *never completely replace* the offline activity. And I say that with a swift, unhesitating and final certainty.

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