The Need to Connect

This weekend is my 25th High School Reunion. For many reasons, I decided not to go — mostly time, cost, and distance. But there is another reason: To some extent, thanks to social networking, I already feel that I am caught up enough with my classmates, those with whom I was not close, but in whose well-being I am still interested. I see their lives flash before my eyes in the form of baby pictures, complaints about work, news posting that reflect their ideals.

My class even set up a “private” group in which we share more specific memories and photos (I put “private” in quotes, because I really feel like I can’t trust the privacy of anything online, but boy I sure hope most of those pics stay behind closed doors!). In many ways, this group made me even more excited to attend the reunion, while at the same time sated my desire to. All in all, I am sure I will miss some laughs, but I am OK with not attending.

I wonder how reunions are going to be perceived among the younger generations. Will they even be seen as necessary? Will they be conducted remotely? Or will they be even more important because no one will have lost touch in the first place?

The idea of connecting via social networking, especially when Facebook and other sites first launched, was an abrupt, novel experience. Within minutes of setting up a profile, I had several friend requests and I was suddenly being (re)introduced to people from my past who were reaching out. And I had a great time thinking of people I wanted to reach out to and thrilled in perusing their pages when they accepted the connection.  This sudden onslaught of faces and memories is not really a part of younger people’s experiences. The people they know will be connected to them online from the very beginning. There will be no online “reunion” with the initial establishing of a social networking presence. The whole concept of “hello” and “goodbye” has changed.

This can be seen in the decline of the yearbook. What was once an essential piece of nostalgia may become nostalgia itself. Why reference an old book when you can see pictures old and new on a screen?

Writing this post makes me sad that I am going to miss sharing stories and creating new ones at our old-town watering hole. But I know that I’ll at least be able to see what’s going within minutes of it all happening. Question is, will that be enough, or will it make me feel even more isolated from the group? And, to draw the parallel to youth today: When they see pictures of an event from which they couldn’t attend or were excluded, where does that leave them?