September 14, 2009 / What Yearbook Means To Me

Connect with social networking, but yearbooks preserve the memories

Written by Brennan Burger

For years I’ve listened to “old people” proclaim just how fast time flies when you move from one stage of life to the next. The further along you get, they say, the farther back your memories stretch – and the funny little details you thought you would never forget begin to crack around the edges and fade away into history.

Through my work at Walsworth, I’ve been fortunate enough to see first-hand just how important yearbooks are in keeping those memories alive. This is a message we’re currently trying to get out to our schools, students and parents with our Scholarship Sweepstakes, where three $1,000 prizes are up for grabs in a sweepstakes drawing at yearbookforever/win.

This all came together for me for the first time very recently, at the age of 38 years, nine months, two weeks and six days old.

It was just a month ago that I attended my 20th high school reunion in my hometown of Wayzata, Minn. If you think attending high school in 2009 is a fun, challenging, unpredictable and somewhat surreal experience, just wait until you show up 20 years later to mix and mingle with your old friends and classmates!

I was eternally grateful for having reviewed the photos, events, notes and signatures in my trusty 1989 copy of the Wayako yearbook prior to arriving at the reunion. The idea of staring at nametags from across the room and scanning my mental Rolodex did not seem like a fun way to spend a majority of the evening. Fortunately the reunion planners did an excellent job getting the event organized and our attendance was strong, so it really did feel like being back in 1989.

Like most, I’ve done a pretty good job of staying in touch with a close group of high school friends over the years. And internet-based social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn have certainly made finding, reconnecting with and staying in touch with many others possible – and convenient. As useful as these networking sites are, however, they offer no help in accurately portraying or preserving how life was then, back in 1989 – or in 1999, or even now, in 2009.

Just as these social sites make it easier to maintain relationships, they make it harder to preserve real memories. As you know, Facebook (and your Facebook profile) continually grows new layers of skin, like fliers tacked on a telephone pole – morphing your profile and public history into a new daily mosaic of the here and now, while covering up the recent and burying the past.

Additionally, all of your friend connections, posts, pictures, events, faves and Super Pokes (and mine, too!) are being warehoused on someone else’s data servers, subject to their terms of use and future business plans, and seemingly accessible to everyone but you. It makes you wonder how secure and permanent your online life really is.

So how do you get the most out of your high school experience today – in the here and now of 2009? My advice is simple: connect with Facebook and archive with yearbook.

Your high school experience serves as the foundation on which you build the rest of your life, and your high school yearbook will dutifully and unwaveringly serve as that foundation’s cornerstone. It won’t move, shift or settle over time, and with a little care you can even keep it from fading.

Reserve your copy of the yearbook today, and when it arrives, have everyone you know write a note and add their signature. It’s great fun at the time and extremely rewarding later when everyone has charted their individual courses and chased their dreams off over the horizon.

Keep it in a safe place and refer to it from time to time – it will remind you of who you are, where you came from and the people you grew up with. It will also help you remember to “Stay cool – and don’t change.”

Most importantly your yearbook will remind you that you and your classmates all started this journey together. During rare occasions like 10- and 20-year high school reunions, you will truly appreciate how old friends – perhaps now a PGA tour player, a social networking entrepreneur, a real estate developer, a hockey coach, a mommy-blogger or even a yearbook marketer have still kept the faith by “staying cool – and not changing.”

Brennan Burger