Thursday, August 2, 2018
There was a bulletin for a 40-year high school reunion on my facebook timeline this morning, as if we don't hear enough from each other on facebook as it is. I really don't see much value in attending, but I said yes just the same.
I've de-friended some of my classmates, as they have de-friended me over religion and politics. Some became Seventh-Day Adventists and are trying to impose their strict new beliefs on others, forgetting what they were like as high school students. Others have solidified their political views, or rather these political views have become ossified to the point they need not repeat them, as just seeing their name pop up on my timeline is enough to know what they have to say. Many of these I have unfollowed, so I don't feel compelled to respond to their posts.
I last attended one of these things 20 years ago. It was a mini-reunion with ten or fifteen classmates at a friend's house, as I wasn't able to attend the official reunion later that fall. This was before facebook and all that social media that now binds us in ways we could never have imagined. I hadn't seen some of these guys since graduation. Some I had hoped not to see again, but there we were all under one roof trying to get reacquainted.
There was even Cindy Kirk, who I had a big crush on as a kid. My hopes were shattered when I saw her in the swimming pool with Rozier Cuchens at the hotel of our after-prom party. She was now on her second husband with one of her boys in tow. She looked as fresh as I had remembered, but for whatever reason we didn't talk much that night. Ernie Perdue kept trapping me in one corner or another of the living room, and once in the kitchen. He was trying to draw me out, as if for a fist fight, I don't know, as we never liked each other in high school, and I saw no reason to start liking him then.
I had consigned my classmates to the past when one day I got an invitation from Darryl McDaniel to join him on facebook. I wasn't sure what to make of this social medium, but within weeks I had invitations from former high school and college friends and it was like one big on-line reunion. It was fun at first, sharing all these pictures and anecdotes, but then religion and politics began to creep in, and soon we were unfollowing and even defriending each other, so as to no longer be compelled to respond to each other's political and religious posts. Things got pretty heated between Ernie and me, leaving me no other choice but to defriend him, as he would stalk me in other person's posts after I had unfollowed him.
This is the odd part of our social media world today, it is now very hard to escape each other. Past and present have become seamlessly merged, and here we are projecting what we knew about each other 40 years ago onto each other today, or vice-versa. More than once I've been told I was "always liberal," when my "conversion" didn't come until years later.
I grew up in deeply conservative Northwest Florida, or Lower Alabama as it was informally known. My first chance to vote in 1980 was for Ronald Reagan and I did so again in 1984, although I was starting to lean "liberal" by then, having been charmed by Jesse Jackson in the primaries. I remember getting into an epic argument with my uncle over Jackson. He was somewhat relieved when I ended up voting for Reagan in the general election, as I couldn't stand the thought of Mondale.
Even weirder is how the facebook profiles remain even after some persons have passed away. On more than one occasion I posted birthday greetings only to find that this classmate is now dead. Yet, here is this internet ghost of him, with persons still posting in memoriam. I recently found out one of my best friends from elementary school had died tragically, rekindling all kinds of memories. I felt it was better to keep these thoughts to myself.
There are a couple of ghosts on this blog, who I couldn't bring myself to delete from the list of contributors and followers. Somehow we think we can hold onto these persons on the Internet, as if they pass into a form of artificial intelligence. That may very well be the case someday.
As with everything else on the Internet, there is no commitment. It doesn't matter whether I go or don't go to the reunion, as I will still be seeing many of my classmates' posts on my timeline, but there is something magnetic about a reunion that is hard to resist.