Social Media and the Death of Social Meetings
This past weekend was my 25th High School reunion. Other than the perplexing thought of “how can it be that 25 years have passed since I graduated high school” we had a great time
catching up as most of us haven’t seen each other since our 20th reunion.
5 years ago I was probably one of the few of my classmates on Facebook since it wasn’t mainstream then. This meant that when we planned our 20th reunion the majority of contact was done ”old school” – meaning we physically had to find everyone. We hunted down our classmates last known addresses and emails to let them know that it was time to get together. We mailed actual invitations and created a private website for people to reconnect. Out of a class of 180 graduates, we had almost half of them and most of their spouses, attend.
Earlier this summer, I reached out to the 5 of us that had planned the 20th and asked if anyone was interested in helping plan our 25th. Considering over 120 of the 180 were on Facebook, we thought that it would make reaching out to everyone a lot easier and thus, the planning of the event would be much simpler than 5 years ago. I set up a group specific to our graduating class, added everyone to it that was on Facebook and started using the tools within Facebook to gauge interest in what type of event, what date worked best and so on.
Easy enough, right?
Out of a class of 180 of which 120 are on Facebook, we ended up with 27 at the actual reunion. While the 27 of us that were there (along with a few spouses) had a great time it was a little disappointing that the turnout was so bad. The plus side to having such a small group was that those of us that were there, had some really great conversations and lots and lots of laughs.
I was asked why I thought the turnout was so dismal to which my number one answer was Facebook.
Let’s be real. The main (only) reason people want to attend a reunion is to see what has happened to everyone since we left high school or the last reunion. With Facebook, you can catch up with what everyone is doing without leaving the comfort of your home. Betsy had another baby? Got it. Brad got a promotion at work and is now VP of Something? Easy. Kids earned awards, moves across the country, parents passed away – everything is there. So why would you need to make an extra effort to see everyone in person?
Social media sites like Facebook are no different from real life, you’ve got those who actively participate and those who are content to watch from the sidelines.
As much as I love social media, I also love putting face time in (and I don’t mean using my iPhone) with people. For me, sites like Facebook help set up a great encounter. It helps me close the gap on what HAS happened in my classmates lives since the last time we saw each other. When they talk about their kids, I can envision who they’re talking about. I can remember that they just took on a new position and ask them how that’s going. It makes the connection stronger.
The ones that were there Saturday night were the ones that actively use social sites. I think the others are “on” Facebook but only in the context that they have an account. I said more than once that even I had grown tired of hearing my own voice as I made post after post encouraging people to get their tickets for the event. While we had made the group and included everyone on it, the majority of people weren’t seeing the messages because they weren’t actively on the site. I drew the line at posting on every classmates page. We wanted them at the reunion but we’re all adults – we couldn’t force them to attend. And of course, there are those that will never show up at a reunion no matter how we invite them.
So to those 27 that showed up on Saturday night, I’m so glad we all carved out the time to get together. No matter how awkward high school could be, it still is a special time in most of our lives and it always feels good to connect with each other.
I’ll see you at the 30th.
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