School Reunions? Nah, I've Got Facebook

Originally published on May 16, 2011 12:09 pm

Facebook was created for college students to get in touch with each other. It has helped people stay in touch online so well, that it might be hurting attendance at real-world class reunions.

This means the excruciatingly awkward reunion scenes in movies — where the dorks and princesses get together to prove that either they've become cool or are still cool — don't have to happen in real life.

Consider a scene from the 1997 film Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. When Romy is asked if she has any kids, she says no, she's been too busy running her own business inventing Post-its.

Now you don't have to bother lying about how brilliant you are. Thanks to social networks, everyone already knows.

'Unplug For A Night'

Marc Gervase graduated from Philadelphia's Strath Haven High School in 2001. He has no plans to go to his 10-year reunion.

"I already know what everyone is doing," he says. "If I needed to find out I could contact them or stalk them through said stalking methods — the unsaid Facebook, Twitter updates."

It seems he's not the only one.

"Ten years ago, you would've gotten maybe 250 people at a 10-year reunion," says Joanna Erdos, vice president of the alumni association for L.A.'s John Marshall High School. "I recently attended a 10-year where there were 94 people. There was another one where I heard the attendance was 43."

Mark Silva, CEO of Great Unions, one of the nation's largest reunion planning companies, says attendance at 10-year reunions is declining across the country. More people are staying in touch, so Silva is changing his marketing pitch from "Find out what became of Sally" to "Unplug for a night."

"There are a lot of people who believe that Facebook is good enough, and they don't want to get together. Well, we try to educate them about, I guess you'd call it, real personal connections," Silva says.

He points out that Facebook could end up helping with those real personal connections. If you get past the "What are you doing?" formalities on a website, you can get to the more important business of telling people what you really think in person.

Technology Vs. Reality

In another scene from Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, the tormented Heather and the ditsy Romy reach an epiphany: "I really thought you guys had it made in high school, and the whole time you were making my life hell, the A-group was making your life hell. I didn't know," Heather says. "You know what? I bet in high school, everybody made somebody's life hell," Romy responds.

Reunion planners claim there's no substitute for that kind of face-to-face, grownup connection. Technology comes and goes, they point out, but reality stays.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LIANE HANSEN, Host:

Facebook was created for college students to get in touch with one another. It has also helped people stay in touch online so well that it might be hurting attendance at real-world class reunions. Alex Schmidt reports.

ALEX SCHMIDT: You know the excruciatingly awkward reunion scene in movies - the dorks and princesses get together to prove that either they've become cool or they're still cool.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ROMY AND MICHELE'S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION ")

SCHMIDT: (as Christy Masters): So, how about you? Any kids?

SCHMIDT: Like the 1997 film "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ROMY AND MICHELE'S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION ")

SCHMIDT: (as Romy White) Oh, no, I just haven't had time, you know, what with running my own business and all.

SCHMIDT: (as Christy Masters) Your own business?

SCHMIDT: (as Romy White) Yeah, I invented Post-Its.

SCHMIDT: Marc Gervase graduated from Strathaven High School in Philadelphia in 2001. He has no plans to go to his 10-year.

SCHMIDT: I don't need a reunion.

SCHMIDT: Why not?

SCHMIDT: 'Cause I already know what everyone's doing. And if I needed to find out, I could just contact them or stalk them through said stalking methods - the unsaid Facebook and Twitter updates.

SCHMIDT: It seems he's not the only one.

SCHMIDT: Ten years ago you would've gotten maybe 250 people at a 10-year reunion.

SCHMIDT: Joanna Erdos is vice president of the Alumni Association of LA's John Marshall High School.

SCHMIDT: I recently attended a 10-year where there were 94 people. Then there was another one that I didn't get to go to but I heard the attendance was 43.

SCHMIDT: Attendance at 10-year reunions is declining across the country, says Great Reunions, one of the nation's largest reunion planning companies. Mike Silva is CEO. He knows more people are staying in touch, so he's changing his marketing pitch from "find out what became of Sally" to "unplug for a night."

SCHMIDT: There are a lot of people who believe Facebook's good enough so they don't want to get together. What we try to educate them about, I guess you'd call it real personal connections.

SCHMIDT: Actually, Silva points out, Facebook could end up helping with those real personal connections. If you get past the "what are you doing" question online, you can get on to the more important business of telling people what you really think.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ROMY AND MICHELE'S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION ")

SCHMIDT: (as Heather Mooney) I really thought you guys had it made in high school and the whole time you were making my life hell, the A group was making your life hell. I didn't know.

SCHMIDT: (as Romy White) You know what? I bet in high school, everybody made somebody's life hell.

SCHMIDT: For NPR News, I'm Alex Schmidt.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OUR LIPS ARE SEALED")

THE GO: (Singing) Can you hear them, they talk about us, telling lies, well that's no surprise. Can you see them, see right through them.

HANSEN: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.