Is Facebook Replacing The Need For Reunions?

'Tis the season to primp, polish and brush off your finest duds and head out the door to make small talk with your oldest friends and enemies. Think we're talking about proms or weddings? Guess again. It's reunion season, the time of year that conjures up feelings of dread and excitement simultaneously. But with Facebook, are reunions necessary or a relic of bygone days?

‘Tis the season to primp, polish and brush off your finest duds and head out the door to make small talk with your oldest friends and enemies. Think we’re talking about proms or weddings? Guess again. It’s reunion season, the time of year that conjures up feelings of dread and excitement simultaneously. But with Facebook, are reunions necessary or a relic of bygone days?

As NPR writes:

Mark Silva, CEO of Great Unions, one of the nation’s largest reunion planning companies, says attendance at 10-year reunions is declining across the country. More people are staying in touch online, so Silva is changing his marketing pitch from “Find out what became of Sally” to “Unplug for a night.”

This writer has a significant high school reunion coming up in the fall, and as my email invitation (and Facebook group notification) arrived in my inbox, I realize I’m already connected to many of my high school old friends – or those I care about – on Facebook. I know the activities their kids are involved in, their work and school updates, and where they went on their last vacation.

I can see their latest photos and know who has lost the most hair, who has ended up with the classic middle aged paunch, and which cheerleader has aged the most gracefully. I’ve attended two high school reunions already (in the flesh) so I think I know what I’m missing and gaining from a virtual reunion.

To help me decide whether to attend my next reunion in person or enjoy the activities via Facebook, I decided to come up with a list of pros and cons.

Pros of Facebook Reunions

Avoiding Awkward Encounters

No more struggling to come up with the name of that guy from algebra class, the one who is so pleased to see you after all these years. Live chatting with friends in your reunion Facebook group makes it easy to connect with who YOU want to connect with

No Need to Fake It

Think of all the lessened anxiety. No need to run to the salon for that last minute cut that will take off 10 years,, or a shopping blitz for the pefect camouflaging dress. Avoid the panic of losing that last 10 pounds in the weeks leading up to the big day. On Facebook, I can post my best looking photos and head shots and no one will be the wiser.

Better Food

Online, you can eliminate the watered down drinks, the hazy lighting of a hotel ballroom, and the boring buffet food. No one looks good or feels good with the traditional reunion setting. With Facebook, you can snuggle up on your couch with a fine glass of Pinot and let the games begin.

Cons of Facebook Reunions

Thrill of the Unknown

My past two high school reunions have given me enough fodder for me and my close friends to last for years. You never know who is going to end up dancing on the tables, who will break down into tears when OMD’s “True” is played by the band, and which ex’s couldn’t take their eyes off each other during the evening.

Personal Connections

Nothing can substitute for the ability to look in someone’s eyes, ask follow up questions or just reach out for a friendly hug. With all the connectivity that Facebook offers, the networking site can’t ask the follow up questions, replace a touch or gauge if someone is happy or not.

Pre-Reunion Excitement

As I peruse my reunion’s Facebook group, I started seeing people I hadn’t thought of for years. And folks who didn’t attend the last reunion in person. I found myself getting more excited with every post about the day. Maybe Facebook can actually build buzz before the big day, rather than detract or even substitute for it.

In the future, maybe the solutions is to offer the option of attending a virtual or real-time reunion. Organize a traditional reunion for those who want to attend, but offer a live stream of the event on the organization’s Facebook page or group, so those who feel like skipping it can enjoy the festivities from home.

Readers, would you prefer a traditional reunion or simply using Facebook to keep in touch with old friends?