About a month ago, I met up with a few high school friends I hadn’t really seen since that time. They were a grade ahead of me and had just gone to their ten-year reunion. I asked them how it was and the general description they gave was that it was just like high school. As I listened to their accounts, it reminded me of sitting in the cafeteria. Every group was at its own table. People who weren’t friends didn’t talk to each other. No one ever went mingling around to different tables unless an extension of a group of friends was there. I wasn’t really surprised to hear that people stuck to their high school cliques.
Then I started thinking about my own impending reunion. I’m sure that in the next six months or so, some sort of Facebook group will crop up telling me that I have to join or I’m not invited.
Once upon a time, high school reunions had formal invitations. They were a place to come home and get back together with old friends one had lost track of over the years. It was a time to be nosey and find out who was making the most money, who got fat, who got bald, who married way above or below their social caste. It was a time to meet people’s spouses, hear about divorces, see pictures of former classmates’ kids and, unless you were one of the nosiest, pretend to give a crap.
In other words, it seems (to me, anyway) that high school reunions are a lot like high school: a place for judgment. People spend so much time trying to lose weight or find the perfect outfit to wear to a high school reunion because they know (they must know, at least on some level) that they’re placing themselves on display for the evening, subject to judgment and criticism they’ll probably never hear said to their faces.
There aren’t a lot of people from high school I’d get really excited about seeing again. It’s as simple as this: the people I want to be friends with from high school, I’m friends with; the people I don’t want to be friends with from high school, I’m not. I still see my friends, and don’t really care to see most of the others, so what’s the point? Most of everyone is still hanging around town anyway. Oh my gosh! It’s so good to see you! You look so much different than when I saw you two weeks ago at Sheetz! Whatever.
Most of all, though, I don’t see the purpose in having high school reunions anymore (at least not for my generation, the vast majority of which is on Facebook. They’re good for people like my grandfather, who goes to his to find out who’s still alive). Social networking has eliminated the mystery. Why show up to my high school reunion to see what everyone looks like ten years later? Thanks to Facebook, I already know! I know what you look like, where you live, what you’re doing for a living, if you’re unemployed, who you married, what your kids look like, where you went to college, when you’re having a bad day, and a whole bunch of other stuff that really doesn’t matter to me (unless you are actually my friend, in which case I already know these things about you and need neither a reunion nor a social networking site to tell me).
The way that social media seems to be taking us is this: Facebook is going to make a more lasting connection between two estranged classmates than a few hours in a bar, hotel ballroom, or a restaurant will. And even then there are no guarantees. People don’t generally become much closer over Facebook. Those who would keep in touch anyway just have an easier way to do it.
I can categorize all the people I knew in high school to justify that Facebook is all the high school reunion I need:
Tier I (the inner circle [not to be confused with the 90s band Inner Circle of “Bad Boys” fame]): These are people from high school with whom I’ve stayed close throughout the years. There are fewer than six people in this tier, and one of them didn’t even go to my high school. I talk to the others occasionally, keep up with them on Facebook, and hang out when possible.
Tier II (the “able to converse beyond ‘hello'” tier): This is mostly where my once-close friends have gone. Let’s be honest: we went our separate ways when we went to college. This is also where my closer high school acquaintances are. These are people whose lives I like to keep up with via Facebook, but rarely see or hang out with. Any conversations held when I run into these people usually consists of things we know about each other from Facebook.
Tier III (the “we acknowledge each other” tier): These are the people I would sometimes talk to in school or in softball or something, but not really. I have no problems with most of them; I just don’t know them well. If we see each other out in public, we say hi, but that’s about it. We might be Facebook friends, but we never talk.
Tier IV (the “what do you want from me?” tier): These are the people I never talked to in high school because they were always too cool for the likes of me. I’m friends with some of these people on Facebook only because they requested to add me (the largest surge of requests also came at a time when my default picture was one of me and a male friend, and I have trouble believing that curiosity about the male friend didn’t contribute to a whole group of friends’ decision to suddenly be interested in my life). I don’t hold grudges against most of these people for making me feel so far beneath them in high school (not ALL of them did). I just have no real interest in being acquainted with them. We don’t talk. I’ve blocked some of them from even seeing most of my Facebook if I’ve felt like they were judging me or if I just didn’t really think it was any of their business.
Tier V (the “please stay away from me” group): I’m not going to sugarcoat anything here. I went to school with a lot of people who thought way too much of themselves (call it a product of growing up in an incredibly economically diverse area, perhaps). These were the people who were so mean and so nasty that I couldn’t stand to be anywhere near them. I know from personal recent experience that one of the ringleaders of this tier is STILL a bully, just one who’s in her late 20s and basically doing nothing with her life. She’d probably remember her glory days fondly, except she’s still living the dream, apparently. I’m not Facebook friends with any of them, nor will I ever be. I go out of my way to avoid them not because I’m afraid of them, but because I have no desire to subject myself to their buffoonery and vile personalities.
So unless someone does some profound arm-twisting, I doubt I’ll be heading back to meet up with the gang from the dear old alma mater. It’s okay, though. I’ll just look at all the pictures posted to Facebook the next day and it will be just like I was there.