Will Facebook eliminate the need for high school reunions?

High school reunions have historically existed so classmates can reconnect and learn what their high school friends, acquaintances and enemies have been doing during the past 10, 20 or whatever increment of years. But now that we have Facebook, are high school reunions really going to be that interesting — or necessary?

Recently, a friend of mine (and former high school classmate) had his Facebook status as a question about whether we’ll only talk about our Facebook photo albums at our high school reunion. It was a really interesting thought — what will we have to talk about? I’ll know if they are married, have kids or have moved away — in fact, I’ll probably know what they did the day before based on their Facebook status.

I’m Facebook friends with about 12.2 percent of my graduating class (that number goes down as people weed out Facebook friends and realize I’m not interesting and/or that we aren’t friends in real life), or a little more than one out of every 10 people I graduated with. With a graduating class of more than 800 people, that’s not too shabby. Aside from directly being friends with someone and seeing their business on my news feed, there are a few other ways I can find out what’s going on with classmates.

One way is through gossip, as my close friends from high school are Facebook friends with people I’m not. Another is through the new Facebook feature that shows you conversations with and tagged photos of your friends by someone who is not your Facebook friend. So if one of my Facebook friends goes to a wedding of a classmate who’s not my Facebook friend? I’ll see on my news feed, and I can do detective work from there.

So, you won’t know what’s going on unless you don’t use Facebook — which would be a minority of my classmates, as at least 500 of them (60.2 percent) have a Facebook account (some have multiples, likely because one account was hacked), and I was only at the letter “S” when it told me it can’t show more than 50 pages (10 people per page).

This is somewhat classist, because to use Facebook  you have to have a computer and Internet connection, so students from low-income neighborhoods might not have this same constant communication about each other’s whereabouts. I’ve also noticed that people who didn’t go to any type of college are less likely to have a Facebook account, as it first was targeted primarily at college students as a way to network around campus.

But, considering that more Facebook users are age 18-24 than any other age group, I think it’s safe to say that most young people in their early 20s have a Facebook account, and they aren’t just friends with “real life” friends, they are Facebook friends with former acquaintances and people they used to have class with. And we all have friended someone just to see pictures of their baby or pictures from a wedding — don’t lie.

We have this urge to stay connected and in each other’s lives (or business, depending on your point of view). The age demographic with the highest growth rate? People age 35 to 54, who would be due for at least a 20-year reunion. On Facebook, the number of 35-54 year olds grew by 172 percent in 2009. At this rate, will they even need a 20-year reunion?

Of course, high school reunions are great because you see people in person, have actual conversations, and your high school classmates are physically around you, not little thumbnails on the side of your computer screen. I don’t think Facebook can ever top the feeling of actually being in the presence of old friends, but it likely will leave us talking about things we already knew, commented on or “liked.”

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