Sunday, January 13, 2008

Reunion Generation

I belong to a generation of people who lived their lives going from one social sphere to another. Through the levels of education - elementary, junior high (now called middle school), high school proper, college, then grad school for some. In amongst those social milieus, there were others - various clubs, organizations, sports groups, etc. We moved in a progression through school, and in and out of activities, all the time meeting new people and making new friends. While we would carry some friends onward, and turn some aquaintences into friends, our steady march through school meant that we would have to lose touch with some people as we changed locations. Sure, some of those people stayed in our spheres, but the vast majority did not. It was a badge of maturity to leave high school and everyone you knew and loved and go to college somewhere else. Sure it was scary, but necessary - necessary for growth, we thought. If someone held on too tightly to the past - if they insisted on going to every high school football game once they started college - we saw them as somewhat flawed. It was imperative that we move forward, and a big part of that movement meant separating from one social circle and creating a new, often more diverse group around us.

Still, it wasn't like we wouldn't see our old old friends ever again. That was what reunions were for. Coming back to that homecoming game. Running into one of your best buddies at the mall. Keeping touch through holiday cards. And looking forward to the pinnacle event of them all - the organized reunion. We kept in touch with the major changes, high points and low points of our best friends through these tools. While we knew about computers, none of us had one. The PC didn't exist. Our biggest technical challenge was learning to type on an IBM Selectric. There was no Internet helping our communications fly at the speed of light.

There is a generally-used name for my generation - Baby Boomers (Boomers for short.) We define ourselves by our forward motion, by how many new people we can meet, become intimate with, pull into our ideas, or impress. We always look forward, to the next group of people, consigning those times we look back to those officially-sanctioned reunions.

Take a look at this great post by Seth Godin, which got me thinking about the Reunion Generation. In Facebook's generational challenge, Seth talks about how he's not used to using Facebook the way younger generations use it. He relates a small tale about a college student he knows who was able to contact tons of people in her upcoming class, so that everyone knew everybody before they set foot on campus.

This is, to me, related to information I've read about how the "younger generations" continue to be involved in their friends' lives through My Space, Facebook, and social media on the Web.

They build on their circle of friends as they go along. No need to move on to the next social circle, when you can keep everyone abreast of your life - and they, you - on a daily basis through online networks. I'm guessing that they don't see this continual contact as a negative thing, the way we in the Reunion Generation might. Their definitions of maturity don't involved sailing away from one shore and losing contact with the island altogether in search of the next beach.