Erica and I had a great time last night at a reunion of friends who were Tour Guides at Universal Studios 20 years ago, and it was of course great to see everyone. The strange part was how much Facebook has changed the group dynamic.
In the past, whenever one would go to a reunion of old friends and acquaintances, most of the evening would be spent asking or answering, "So what do you do now?" Instead, through the magic of social networking, we mostly already knew the basics of what people are up to, have seen pictures of their kids, caught up with their careers in the time since. I was already aware of recent accomplishments and life changes for at least three-quarters of the people there.
In other words, the small talk had already been made virtually, and people could dive right into conversation almost as if we hadn't only occasionally seen each other over the decades.
For all the criticisms of social networking as a way for people to avoid face-to-face encounters, I think the opposite can be true. It can be a way to pave the way for great physical gatherings of old friends (this kind of reunion could never have been organized so quickly and easily before Facebook), and keep the conversation going in-between the face-to-face. (Not that the text-addicted 20-somethings don't already know this).
Of course, what it really means is that I'm now going to be even more addicted to this stuff.