Guy’s Time: Socializing in Today’s Social Networks
written by Carl Danbury, Jr.
TWO SCORE AND SEVEN stone ago, our forebearers brought forth an idea of hosting a gathering, where the svelte and the corpulent, the arrogant and the humble, the efficacious and the incapable would gather for imbibing, nibbling and prevarication during a four-hour sojourn down a nostalgic, yet very murky path with others who attended the same school. Prior to the introduction of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and MySpace (seriously?), these were intriguing get-togethers every five, 10, 25 years or so, but hasn’t social media rendered the need for these school reunions obsolete?
Yes, the interactive prying, which enables us to avoid any potentially uncomfortable personal interactions — aside from thumbing a message or two — means we can completely avoid those imposing telephone conversations or imperceptible e-mails that really intrude into our lives.
This is a new, learned, “rad” behavior we picked up from the younger generation who will never attend anything more communal than a protest rally with strangers or a coincidental Pokémon Go meeting. Because today’s students don’t even have to leave their parents’ house to earn a college degree these days, certainly there will be no future need for reunions of any kind. When graduations occur at least five times before the age of 23 these days (kindergarten, the fifth grade, the eighth grade, the 12th grade and then college), the luster of celebrations wears thin and those potential face-to-face meetings, which may or may not include uncomfortable handshakes and perhaps those unthinkable hugs or pecks on the cheek that a reunion might bring seems highly intrusive, doesn’t it?
Because of social networks, you now know the cheerleader you longed for has turned 57, needs a lift here and a tuck there, weighs 23 pounds more than you — and despite the grades she earned in the 12th grade — she hasn’t yet qualified for an appearance on “Jeopardy.” You also recently Facebook stalked that freaky girl with the long, straight jet-black hair in Mr. Rooney’s class. She never wore make-up then, smelled like she had smoked a bowl of hash on the way to school, now looks like Linda Evans just five years removed from “Dynasty,” yet sadly still hasn’t responded to your friend request. Maybe there’s a reason she doesn’t remember you. And, the popular dude who used to pick on you unmercifully as a freshman is now a recluse living in Two Strike, S.D., yet still manages the two-hour drive once a week to Al’s Oasis in Oacoma, to post photos on Facebook of the pheasants, prairie dogs, turkey, antelope, deer and buffalo he has killed recently. He likes Al’s marinated beef chislic nearly as much as the free Wi-Fi.
I have attended two high school reunions in my lifetime, my 10th and 30th. Both were enjoyable but the latter was much more meaningful to me, and to the others who attended. The years pass. Wives and children are gained. Our perspective intensifies, as do our abilities to actually share snippets about our loved ones. Our desire to recollect the good old days at dear Ball & Chain High dissipates, and with it goes the trite mulling of opportunities lost on the playing field, in the classroom and on the stage. Too often via the social networks, we are privy to our friends’ news, accomplishments and minutia, yet we are sometimes prone to suffering from trip-restaurant-collectible-grandbaby-celebrity-encounter envy. At a reunion, you can mutter something innocuous such as, “you lucky stiff,” whereas the lack of a “like” on Facebook can be deafening.
If you are going to celebrate a high school or college reunion, why not make it every year and why not make a weekend of it? This is particularly so for those of us who don’t and haven’t lived in the same geographic vicinity of the high school or college we attended. It also is so for those who are in that season of life with fewer child-related responsibilities, providing the ability to travel more frequently. If there is just one person you hope to catch up with at this year’s reunion, isn’t it worth the time and expense to invest in that relationship? Haven’t you missed that connectivity and meaningful friendship that simply cannot be fulfilled with a post, a text, an e-mail or Skype?
One of my schools is hosting a Centennial celebration this fall, and then my 40th reunion is on the horizon. Not sure if I will attend both, but I’m definitely attending the Centennial, because how often can you celebrate 100 years of anything?
As for reunions, it’s wise to go while you are still able. As Clint Eastwood once remarked, eventually, “We’d struggle to raise a quorum.”