Since we’re heading into the 90′s this weekend, and because the heat is starting to make me crabby, and because I live in Seattle for the rain and not in spite of it, I needed to look at some photos of my wet, happy garden from just a few days ago. I also wanted to tell you all a story about a funny little gathering that I attended last Saturday—a.k.a. my high school reunion.
Let me preface this by saying that I helped organize the event because I, being the goody-two-shoes that I was in high school (I say that with a devilish smirk), was senior class vice president. This is nothing to brag about, or at least it isn’t today. It brought me loads of perks when I was eighteen, but apparently I didn’t read the bylaws that the class officers have to get together ten years later and organize the reunion. If it hadn’t have been for the party planning, I probably wouldn’t have gone.
But I went. I showed up early, balloons in hand, and forced awkward conversations with folks I knew and folks I didn’t. It wasn’t horrible. It wasn’t my ideal saturday night either, but I had a decent time, and I’m sure that others would say the same. I’m constantly amazed at how people get better as they get older. More attractive, nicer, more cordial. And some people never change, for better or for worse. I hope that I have changed for the better.
We (and by we, I mean Kristi, the former senior class president and organizer extraordinaire—I am a slacker and she is amazing, staying true to our high school dynamic) promoted the event via Facebook. Many of my friends and acquaintances from high school are my friends on Facebook, so I’ve been able to catch up with them and they with me before this little shindig even came about. I know that their cat recently went to the vet for surgery and that they got divorced last year. I’ve seen pictures of them at Mariner’s games and fishing for trout with their kids. I know who their “friends” are, what music they like, what restaurants they go to. But do I know them in any real way?
The answer, unfortunately, is no. So when I’m with them face to face in a real setting where the ice from my drink is making my hands shake and you can tell that they are just as nervous, what do you talk about?
“I see pictures of your labradoodle on Facebook all the time—she is so cute!”
“Do you enjoy being a mime?”
“I didn’t realize that mall cops needed Segways.”
“Do you like olives?”
Not that I was expecting deep conversations about aging or poverty, but I didn’t know that conversations with people I supposedly “know” could be this dry. Then it went off light a lightbulb in my over-socialized brain: they’re not my friends. They’re my Facebook friends. I’m also friends with my butcher on Facebook, but stick me in a room with him and I’m sure all we’d talk about is lamb shank.
I’m not complaining about Facebook in any way, shape or form. I adore it. It’s the funnest waste of time on the internet. But what constantly surprises me about this little website is how it brings about feelings of false intimacy. If I have nothing to talk to these people with in real life, why do I feel the need to know when they’re going to the dentist and washing their car? And with people that I know very, very well—my best friends—does a Facebook update replace a phone call or a cup of coffee with them when I already know how their day is going? Has Facebook become a substitute for real life, face-to-face interaction?
Walking into my reunion, I craved something like a cross between Romy and Michelle and Grosse Point Blank. I would make up a fake profession (inventor of the Snuggie), see that all the jocks were washed up losers with beer guts, chat with the nerds who are now millionaires, and go out in a hail of gunfire from the hit man who was trying to kill me because I was secretly a hit man trying to kill him. Alas, Facebook has taken the surprise out of reunions. I didn’t get to fake a career. I already knew what all the jocks were up to (sadly, none playing professional sports as promised). I knew that the nerds were as nice and sweet and successful as ever. The hit man never found me, probably because he found out on Facebook where I was and didn’t want to subject himself to a high school reunion.
I decided to leave the bar at the late, late hour of 11:00 and meander back home, tail between my legs and a thousand awkward conversations still buzzing in my brain. As I was walking out of the bar a familiar voice called my name, and I turned to see none other than an ex-boyfriend. We hugged and exchanged polite hellos. I apologized for not having time to catch up at the moment—that I was pooped and headed home. “That’s okay,” he explained. “I’ll just Facebook you.”