Over the last couple of years, I’ve become a regular user of Facebook and have connected and reconnected with friends and current and former colleagues and classmates. However, just in the past 3-4 months, I’ve seen high school classmate activity increase, receiving requests from high school classmates that I haven’t been in touch with since the day I left high school years ago. I’ve also noticed actual high school alumni groups formed in Facebook for many high school classes ranging from the 1970’s to recent graduating classes in 2008.
This made me think that naturally, high school reunion attendance would likely be at possibly all time highs across the US. Recent Facebook demographic data from Ignite Social Media suggests:
- Largest : 35-44 years old: roughly 22% of all Facebook users
- 2nd largest: 45-55: roughly 21% of all Facebook users
- 3rd largest: 25-34: 17% of all Facebook users
Thus, nearly 60% of Facebook users are part of the 25-55 age group, a group that would be attending 5, 10, 15, 20, and 30 year reunions. And it is clear that particularly the 35 -44 year old demographic has been embracing Facebook in record numbers, a phenomenon that has been documented in such main-stream publications as Time Magazine (Why Facebook is for Old Fogies).
However, recent articles in the New York Time and various blog postings I’ve come across contradict this thesis. In this article, in the New York Times (Who Needs a College Reunion? I’ve Got Facebook), the basic premise is that since former classmates are connected via Facebook and are aware of the basic aspects of their classmates lives such as family, work, and hobbies, why would they need to go to a face to face reunion for some superficial conversation? After all, what they would have learned about their classmates are the same superficial qualities of one’s life they can observe by looking at the photos posted or status messages about children’s activities. While this article is focused on college reunions, the basic argument applies to high school reunions as well.
Actual high school reunion attendance data isn’t readily available, so I don’t know which view point is most likely to happen. My hypothesis is that attendance for the 15-20 year high school reunions would most definitely increase largely due to Facebook, but it’s possible that the more recent graduates may not be any more likely to attend a 5 year reunion. For the recent graduates, Facebook may make them feel that they never left their high school circle so the nostalgia factor wouldn’t kick in for them for at least another 5 to 15 years.
As I mentioned at the beginning, there have been a proliferation of high school alumni class groups forming on Facebook. I took a look at my high school from Ohio and looked at the number of members in various alumni groups from the 80’s through 2005. While I don’t have actual class size data, I do know that generally the class size in my high school has ranged from 570 to 670 students. For these purposes, I’m assuming a 620 class size for all classes to provide general directional data of the penetration of Facebook users by different graduating classes. Of course, there may be some users of Facebook who haven’t joined the high school class Facebook groups, but I’m assuming those would be negligible.
|Facebook Group Size||~ % of HS class size||Nearest HS Upcoming Reunion||Age in 2009|
While clearly not statistically significant data and based on only one high school, couple of initial observations from the data:
- The most recent graduating classes (2004-2006) have the highest penetration of Facebook groups (30%-45%).
- Classes from 1987 to 1991 whose graduates would be 36 to 40 years old show next highest penetration near 20% (whose upcoming reunions would be their 20th to 25th) ; similar to the class of 2000– a class which graduated about 10 years later.
- The upcoming 5 year reunions would seem to be the likeliest benefactors from Facebook, but again, these alumni may not feel the need to attend a reunion given the higher interaction since graduation via Facebook.
- The older classes from the early 1980’s and late 1970’s may have small Facebook groups at this point, but being late adopters and a fast growing demographic, would suspect their high school facebook group sizes will continue to grow.
While there are many other factors impacting reunion attendance such as % of alumni living in vicinity of their high school towns and economic factors, I do believe Facebook will make a meaningful impact to attendance. Particularly for 20 year and 30 year reunions which weren’t likely to have high attendances, the bump from Facebook should be meaningful.