Palo Alto High School's News and Features Publication

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

That’s What Shi Said: Pics, or it didn’t happen – Prom and social media


Although I would never consider myself the most proactive of personalities, even I have begun compiling the essential second semester staple — my Prom To-Do List is already overflowing with tasks of the utmost importance:

  • Find shoes — tall heels, but not too tall because I don’t want to tower above everyone else. Ask around to see what height heels everyone else is wearing, then figure out the height of everyone surveyed, calculate the average height with heels and make sure I am within one standard deviation of it.
  • Decide whether I want to post my dress on the Prom Dresses 2015 Facebook group. How much do I care if someone wears the same dress as me? What if my dress doesn’t get enough likes? Consider reserving all other sizes of my dress on Rent the Runway just in case somebody else decides they want it.
  • Target and confirm Prom escort. See: list of viable candidates made in August, narrowed down throughout the year based on personality, height and unfortunate haircuts.
  • Convince parents that bringing bankruptcy upon the family for a single night of dressing up is worth it.
  • Convince myself that spending all this time and energy on one night is worth it.

Despite my to-do list’s title, my Prom experience will barely be affected by the completion of these tasks. My obsession with  matching heights is irrelevant on a darkened dance floor that is only occasionally illuminated by pulsing strobe lights. I couldn’t care less about wearing the same dress as a stranger, and I don’t need a date for me to have a good time — after all, the Macarena is a one-person dance.

Indeed, it would probably make more sense to call the second semester staple a Pre-Prom To-Do List. Consider the photography sessions that occur two hours before the buses load, where friends gather at a predetermined house for the debut of their outfit and date. Combine such an annual tradition with the fact that I am living in an age when every single moment of my life is documented on social media, and my premature obsession begins to make sense. If my Prom photos are going on the World Wide “Internet is forever” Web for all several hundred of my Facebook friends to see, you can bet your boutonniere that I’ll hunt down someone who’s willing to wear a suit, if only so they can hold my waist at a 45-degree angle in the middle of somebody’s vibrant backyard.

The "possess the dress" mentality is spurred by an irrational fear of conformity.
The “possess the dress” mentality is spurred by an irrational fear of conformity.

Our all-consuming stress and anxiety is not, as many would assume, geared towards the night of Prom itself; the insane amount of preparation and passive aggressive posts on social media stem from our desire to look perfect in the pictures taken at Pre-Prom meet-ups. We create a Facebook group dedicated to posting pictures of our dresses to avoid instances of “Who Wore It Better,” when really, everybody is already wearing the same long, chiffon dress with a sweetheart neckline in different pastel colors and varying levels of reflective plastic. Although we enjoy telling each other to embrace individuality, at the heart of our pre-Prom panic lies the need to conform, to wear a dress that’s different but not too different, to have a person to exchange botanic accessories with and to ensure that we don’t teeter too tall above our friends’ heads in our fancy shoes.

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High schoolers’ obsession with their image on social media has managed to turn a fun, stress-relieving dance into an event that, for many students, calls for a flurry of preparation and undeserved anxiety. Every year, a number of high school students present a stunning display of misprioritization when they sacrifice their sleep, sanity and dignity in a single-minded effort to reign victorious in an online photo contest judged by their peers. Our need to record everything on social media has combined with Prom’s twice-in-a-high-school-career opportunity to dress in formal attire, and, together, the two have given birth to a social culture in which conformity rules and individuality drools. We need to collectively step back from the Internet, acknowledge that it is not a good thing to reach our social peaks during a high school dance and treat Prom for what it is: a single night of dressing up and dancing with your best friends to Top 40 music without any sense of shame.

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