Paula Sokol and some classmates tried a few times to arrange a 30-year reunion this year for their Sacred Heart High School Class of 1981, yet their attempts fell through. On one planned date, only a handful of people showed up.
Sokol, 47, of Morningside, Pa., said she felt disappointed by the lack of her classmates’ enthusiasm for a reunion. She sensed that people’s involvement on Facebook—the popular social-networking site with more than 800 million active users—dampened many people’s interest, because they already were in touch and caught up with classmates.
How, she thought, could an online connection replace seeing people in person?
“I want to see what you look like … to sit down and actually talk,” says Sokol. “It’s being in the same room with somebody. … It’s a fun night to get together with people you were friends with 30 years ago.”
Facebook has revolutionized the way we communicate—and class reunions have changed because of it. Some people keep in close touch electronically with almost daily updates online, so they don’t feel compelled to buy a ticket and travel across town—or across the country—to see former classmates. For others, enthusiasm for an event that’s promoted among friends on Facebook can be the tipping point in making the decision to attend.
Edith Wagner, editor of Reunions magazine, has heard both sentiments from her readers. She doesn’t understand why someone would find Facebook to be a replacement for seeing people in person.
“You can’t do hugs on Facebook,” says Wagner, whose magazine is based in Milwaukee. “For people who use it as an excuse not to go, they were probably unlikely to go anyway.”
Wagner has heard that Facebook reduces reunion attendance more with younger graduates for 10- and 15-year reunions. Older people, who spent a much longer time in the pre-Facebook era, seem more likely to approach reunions the old-fashioned way.
Some reunion organizers thank Facebook for helping them find classmates and plan their events.