How social media help, hype are affecting proms

Social media is helping young people plan their graduation celebrations, but it's also putting enormous pressure on them to make their proms picture-perfect for online sharing.

Social media is putting pressure on young people to make their proms picture-perfect for online sharing

Social media is helping young people plan their graduation celebrations, but it's also putting enormous pressure on them to make their proms picture-perfect for online sharing.

A girl spends months hunting through racks of dresses in the quest for the fabled "perfect prom dress." After finding the mystical creation, the worry begins that someone else may show up sporting exactly the same dress.

Not a big deal? Clearly you have never been a teenage girl.

Luckily, Facebook and Instagram are helping young girls prevent this social nightmare from occurring on their special night - just one of the ways social media is affecting graduation traditions.

“My school has a Facebook page where we mostly post pictures of our dresses so no one gets the same one,” says Abby Stevenson, who will be attending prom in Cole Harbour, NS, on June 23.

Facebook registry pages let prom-goers post pictures of their dresses so that others don't buy the same one.

“Lots of people are buying their dress on online stores and mainstream stores now instead of little petite boutiques, so there’s more chance that people will have the same dress," Toronto teen Katie Douglas adds. 

While Facebook dress registries are helping early shoppers "get dibs" on specific dresses, they're also influencing style. Many people end up using the lists of what others have bought as a guide for their own dress shopping.

“All our dresses look pretty much the same,” Toronto prom-goer Sydney LeBlanc admits.

Stevenson says her friends have been using social media sites like Facebook and Instagram to show off their prom dresses since January.

“We also ask questions about where people are getting their hair done and stuff like that,” she says.

Even Twitter isn’t safe from the hype surrounding graduation dances and celebrations, as “prom2k14” and “prom dresses” have become some of the most popular hashtags.

Popping the question

And its not just prom dresses being showcased online. Guys are feeling the pressure, with prom-posals appearing on social media timelines as girls show off how they are being asked to prom.

Thanks to the internet, a quick telephone call or a conversation by the lockers to ask someone to the end-of-school dance is now deemed lazy. The "prom-posal" is reaching the magnitude of a marriage proposal for some students.

Thanks to the internet, a quick telephone call or a conversation by the lockers is now deemed lazy. Except for the absence of a diamond ring, the prom-posal is reaching the magnitude of an engagement proposal.

The pressure is on to have a picture-perfect, Instagram-filter-ready prom. A perfect example is a recent Instagram picture of a message written out with chalk on a sidewalk. It reads “Prom?” and underneath it gives two options for the girl to choose “Yes” or “No.” 

Others have used flash mobs, hired planes to fly banners, and sought help from celebrities to help them pop the big question.

Prom pressure

 The over-sharing nature of social media is making it difficult for young people in Canada to keep prom a simple affair. When they’re being bombarded with images of what other people are wearing, planning or doing on their special days, nearly impossible standards are being set.

And businesses are cashing in on the social media hype, while parent’s wallets are taking the hit as their kids struggle to keep up with glamorous posts from classmates. And if their son or daughter is attending more than one prom, that means even more cash spent.

LeBlanc estimates she has spent around $500 on her own prom with help from her parents, a common trend.

A survey by Visa this spring estimates 81 per cent of prom costs are being covered by parents in Canada. The Canadian households surveyed expected to spend an average of $800 on their kid’s proms this year.

Budgeting is becoming a focus for spenders as the social pressure to keep up with the rest of the class increases. Visa has even gone so far as to create a free app specifically for graduation celebrations called “Plan It Prom” that helps people budget prom spending — from the clothes to the limo to the hair salon.

For the prom-goers who've already had their big night this year, many are spreading the word on social media that the money spent was worth it. Captions on pictures posted online over the past few weeks say things such as, “I love my prom pics I can’t stop looking at them” from Twitter user @gabbssetts, “I couldn’t have asked for a better date” from @Allixo_, and the most fitting, “If you don’t post a prom photo, did it really happen” from @katieemckenna.

But Courtney Zwicker, who went to prom four years ago, counsels those who haven't already had their end-of-school gala that prom pressure ultimately means a lot of money spent for a fleeting day many will barely remember.

She says she thinks it's silly to spend a lot of money competing with classmates for a dance, and urges people to keep prom in perspective.

“Don’t spend all your money on this one day, because it won’t be worth it and it won’t be the fairy tale day you think it will be,” she says, adding that sometimes, “prom isn’t all its cracked up to be.” 


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