My 10th high school reunion happened this past Saturday. I was at home folding clothes. This was after going to dinner and Target with my wife.
Why didn't I attend my reunion? It wasn't because dinner, Target, or laundry was more appealing. It's just that they were more necessary.
When I graduated in 1999, there may have been a moment when I wondered how fun it would be to see everyone again in a decade. We'd all meet up in Nashville and impress each other with tales of business or spiritual opportunity, introducing each other to our wives and husbands that we'd met at college or at work.
Then, about five years after that, Facebook was invented. And no one ever needed to go to a high school reunion again.
Since high school, moving back to my hometown and the magic of the Internet have allowed me to keep up with everyone I'd like to. Through circumstance and email, I've even reconnected with my four best friends from ten years ago (all of us lived somewhere else after college and returned to Nashville around the same time as one another - and none of us knew it at the time). That's who I was hanging out with on Friday instead of meeting up with the other reunion attendees at Dave and Buster's.
Through social media, I can see pictures of former classmates, see where everyone works, and even start conversations with people I haven't spoken to since the 90's.
And that's really the clincher - it's not that Facebook prevents me from going to the reunion. It's that the tools of communication have been so democratized and mainstreamed that if you and I need to connect, we can. It's easy and even effortless. I don't need to pay $100 to go to a party to hear you tell me what I already know. Don't believe me? Shoot me an email and we can grab coffee.
See how easily we can connect and catch up?
The organizers decided that the best way for everyone to reconnect was to shell out $100 - because that's what a dinner and dance in a hotel ballroom costs. I can't imagine what that request would feel like to someone who doesn't live in Nashville and would need to include travel costs.
Will my daughter go to her high school reunion? Probably not. She won't have the chance to. In 28 years (or so), there will be tools and media that no one can imagine now. Remember - Facebook has only been open to everyone for just three years.
So, if you're thinking of planning a high school reunion, be sure to account for all of the social media out there. In fact, it's not necessarily that Facebook detracts from a reunion. If nothing else, such a tool could enhance it.
Above all, I think all of these toys and tools need to be making us better people and forming better community. But that doesn't mean the choices need to be between seeing what I want on Facebook and coughing up $100 for a party. With a little creativity, a happy medium could be struck where what we think a reunion has to be can be modified to improve the community that was formed in high school hallways last decade.
I'm sure a lot of people had a blast and loved the reunion. I'm sure it was a well planned event. Judging from the pictures I saw (on Facebook), a lot of people are glad they went and paid their money.
But remember - this was an all or nothing event. A dinner and dance scheduled on one evening at one place allows for very little flexibility. Either people are available and they see the value or they don't. They same goes for weddings, showers, graduations, homecomings, and birthday parties. Pick a place, a time, a cost, and a theme and see who can make it. Cross your fingers. See what happens.
The rampant growth and adoption of social media may mean that we have to throw away our preconceived notion of how things are done. And in the end, we may find that we can do them all better if we have a clean slate and a heck of a piece of chalk. Thinking outside of the box is no longer enough. We need to question the need for the box in the first place.