I started having anxiety dreams about my 10-year high school reunion a few months back. I love my husband and I like bragging about getting to live in Hawaii, but I was afraid that it would seem like my marriage was the only thing going for me. While I know this isn’t the case, I’ve never wanted to be perceived as defined by my relationships. I tried to think of ways to make myself seem more awesome to my former peers who I never see anymore but for some reason still care what they think of me.
In the end it didn’t actually matter. There wasn’t enough interest and the reunion was cancelled. We all know what’s going on with each other because of Facebook.
On the one hand, I feel robbed of a reunion. Back in high school I was weird and fat and nobody wanted to date me. I wanted the satisfaction of showing off the svelte chick with the handsome husband. (High school me, for reference):
I wanted to tell off my former best friend for breaking my heart by cutting ties after graduation. In that lesser part of myself, I wanted to see who wasn’t doing so well.
But I realize I can do that anyway, for the most part. It’s all available online. I’m already “friends” with everyone who I can readily remember from high school. I’m also friends with countless people I’ve met in the last decade and inexplicably need to stay connected with: that guy who made me laugh uncontrollably once at a party in college and I never saw again; the girl who was in my GRE class, that one navy spouse who was at an event but I mustn’t delete because who knows if we’ll ever live in the same spot again and I wouldn’t want to offend her if we do.
I try to go online and purge my friend list every so often. But I can’t force myself to remove connections, even when I only vaguely recall the person. It’s like a personal memory box and each person brings me to some story or special memory.
I also like to see what people are doing. Facebook and other social media make us feel like we are connected, but are we? Just because you liked my quip or I saw your vacation photos doesn’t mean we actually talked. Of the 500+ friends I have online, I have no idea who is looking at what I put out there, nor do others know when I keep track of them. We’re all passively following other’s information without actively maintaining relationships.
And maybe this is part of why I am so sad at the lack of a reunion. I like seeing what people are up to, but I also want to rekindle old friendships, and it’s nearly impossible to do without personal contact. Otherwise how do you say to someone online that you haven’t been close with in a decade that “I miss you.” How do you explain to people who saw you at your worst growing up that “I’m a better person now.” We’re probably all ashamed to some degree of the half-adults we were as teens. Maybe the real purpose of a reunion is to show that we became grown ups, even though our teen selves never seemed like we’d make it.
Or maybe I’m reading too much into it. Either way I feel I am missing out on a rite of passage. In this world of ultimate connectivity, it seems a certain human presence is missing. I’m glad to be able to see what my great aunt is up to online, and I am amazed by the way that technology has progressed. But I wish that the result of Internet profiles wasn’t the dismissal of active communication.