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reunion time: in person or online?

30 Dec

It is the end of the 2011 and high school reunions are in the air. The Rutland High School class of 2001 has made its way home this week to celebrate their ten year reunion. But in an age where social media is readily available and anyone can easily connect and essentially “stalk” almost every member of their class, what is the importance of these personal encounters?

As you may know, I have a Master’s degree in Media Studies, focusing on Online Marketing and Social Media. I am very much an advocate for the importance and usefulness of these mediums, and see them emerging and developing even more over the next decade. People who know me personally, know that I am a very social being. I love personal contact and could certainly end up on the phone with you for hours at a time, talking about everything and nothing at all once. My ten year high school reunion will come at some point in 2012, and I honestly can not wait. Yes, I have been keeping tabs on people I graduated high school with through various social medias, but nothing can replace those one on one conversations.

We all know high school is tough, mostly because people are attempting to figure out who they are, what their styles are, how to be a good friend, a good member of society, how to be the best them they can be. There are people I interact with now whose paths never crossed mine in high school for one reason or another. I am interested in how different people have grown, what their lives are like, how maybe our lives have changed and morphed in ways that we now have a million things in common and will become good friends.

Tonight, for example, I was out on the town with friends of mine. Looking around at us interacting, you would think we had all grown up together and been friends for years. Honestly, I have only been a part of this “group” of friends for a little over a year. Only one member of the group was I friends with in high school, and our relationship has certainly only grown stronger in the passing years. The remainder of the group of friends all grew up in the Rutland area, but we were not friends in high school. These new friendships did not spring up through social media “meet-ups,” although we do all use social media to communicate with each other, to plan events, and a few of us use social media in our jobs, even. This is one side of the spectrum.

The other side is maybe that witch from high school is still a witch. But her Facebook wall is most likely not going to tell me that, and I would like to give her a chance, in person, to prove she has matured and changed.

I think personal interaction can be viewed as another “medium” of media and communication. Yes, social media has emerged as an important way of receiving news or of keeping up with friends who live far away, but conversation is faster and on different topics when you have the personal communication. Even a media form like Skype, where users can video chat for free, does not replace the organic need for human touch, interaction, and engaged conversation. Similar to the way Google+ works, where you can post certain information to only specific “circles” of friends, is the way that social media versus personal communication works. There are some conversations that I want to have with only my closest friends through the act of discussion. There are some viewpoints, discussions, and stories that never need to make their way into print. You, being human, surely agree with this statement.

RHS’s class of 2001 only used Facebook to contact its members. I have to say, that it is likely the most affective way to reach most people. I say most because there are those diehards from that class (like my husband) who do not subscribe to social media and prefer only personal interaction (lumping phone calls and texts into this category). I think that this still works, because even though he is not on Facebook or Twitter, or any other social media platform, I am and several of his friends are, linking him back into the conversation.

The point I am trying to make is, perhaps social media, instead of replacing the high school reunion, is actually helping to enhance it. For those who can not make it home for their reunion, Facebook will let them know who is going to be there and let them reconnect with someone from their past through the platform. Twitter will allow live tweeting of the event, if someone chooses to do so. Both of these mediums will also encourage, and I guarantee it will happen, the immediate posting of pictures, so the classmates who are missing the event will seemingly still be apart of the buzz and be able to see what went on very easily.

Social media is helping to back up and increase the value of these interpersonal live communications. I encourage you to reconnect with someone from your past using the social media tools that are available to you, and plan a time to meet up with them in person. Nothing beats throwing back a drink or grabbing a coffee with an old friend.

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