Taylor Walker worked hard during her time at Salem State University. She was her class’s homecoming queen, she sang in the university’s Grammy award-winning choir, and she completed a double degree in communication and speech. Graduation was her chance to reflect on all those accomplishments. To celebrate, she planned to host a party with her family, who she hasn’t seen much because she’s been so busy.
“I wanted to have this time to celebrate not just me, but my family,” she says. “This whole college journey for me has been really a team effort for who I call ‘my village,’ my family unit.”
Then the pandemic happened. On March 16th, her school postponed her graduation ceremony indefinitely, and on April 29th, she received her cap and gown in the mail. She started crying when she opened the box.
Schools around the world have postponed their graduation ceremonies, moved them online, or canceled them outright. The schools are trying their best, but the seniors still say they’re disappointed. They’re using Twitter and TikTok to share their sadness and to make up for the lost rite of passage with jokes. Digital ceremonies aren’t a replacement, they say, and these events don’t replicate the true feeling of graduation. Plus, they can’t say goodbye to their friends or teachers — let alone throw a graduation party.
The digital events tend to lack the prestige and passion of a real ceremony. The streams are often choppy, involve prerecorded remarks, and sometimes show graduates’ photos on-screen alongside their name. People type “congratulations” in the live chat. Other schools are encouraging students to participate in graduation TikTok challenges or at least record themselves moving their tassels from the right to the left and posting it to social media.
Tech companies have taken advantage of cancelled graduation ceremonies to promote their platforms. For instance, Facebook will have Oprah Winfrey speak at its online ceremony, along with a Miley Cyrus performance. It’s also trying to facilitate graduation parties over its new video conferencing software, Messenger Rooms.
Meanwhile, YouTube is hosting its own live-streaming event with former US President Barack Obama as the commencement speaker, and multiple TV networks are hosting their own simulcast online and over-the-air programs with Obama and other guests. The tech companies see the move to virtual commencements as an opportunity to tie themselves to an important life event and throw their weight around to attract celebrity talent.
While some seniors say this is a nice gesture, they know it’s not the same as a real ceremony, and many will never experience a traditional graduation ceremony.
All the graduating classes of 2020 now have something in common.
Source: The Verge