The boys have been in Kansas through July, while Meg went east to visit a brother and nephews in Mississippi, then still farther east to visit friends and attend her 20th high school reunion.
By coincidence, Joe's high school reunion was the same day. It wasn't a round anniversary for his graduating class, but various movers and shakers had gotten together and planned a reunion for all years. So, while he graduated with a tiny class of 30-some students, the reunion swamped the tiny town of Spearville with hundreds of alumni and their families. They had a huge festival, dinner and dance, with smaller side events for individual classes.
Meanwhile, back in Maryland, less than 100 of the over 500 graduates of Eleanor Roosevelt High School Class of 1990 met at a bar for an evening of drinks, snacks, and lots of laughs and hugs. Ours was a Facebook-based meetup, with only a few people attending who don't use Facebook and had learned about the event from friends.
Joe's reunion was organized primarily through mailings, word-of-mouth, and old-fashioned networks of written and telephone correspondence with friends and relatives. There were some e-mails and even Facebook communication, so the broadcast signal was across all traditional correspondence and modern networking bands.
The contrast in attendance between the reunions wasn't solely an effect of the information channels used, but it does suggest that social networking sites aren't anywhere close to replicating the value and effectiveness of our real-life networks. And it really shows the power of virtual networks to practically exclude large segments of our communities from the social reinforcement of rituals and other shared experiences.
The third reunion is tomorrow, when Meg flies back to Kansas to meet the boys who were so much younger at the beginning of the month.