social media

Social media and picture perfect peer pressure

It’s that time of year again: months of planning, hours of preparation, generous sums of money invested, and it all comes down to this… No, not the World Cup, the Year 11 prom.

It’s that time of year again: months of planning, hours of preparation, generous sums of money invested, and it all comes down to this… No, not the World Cup, the Year 11 prom.
Social media frenzy
Within the next few weeks 15 and 16-year-olds, giddy with the uncompromised sense of freedom they’ve been deprived of throughout their secondary school education, will await the limos taking them to this most highly anticipated event.
It’s the ultimate end of exams party: a chance for students to finally let their hair down with the friends and teachers with whom they’ve spent the past five year of their lives, tinged with the bittersweet feeling of the sadness to be leaving, and the relief and excitement to finally be getting the hell out of school.
But it doesn’t stop there. In our social media saturated society, screens will be refreshed in anticipation, waiting for the flood of prom photos which seem to have become almost as important as the event itself.
The principles of prom
There’s no doubt about it, the prom is a fantastic way to celebrate the end of the five years hard work, tears, triumphs and friendships that is secondary education. Social media is unparalleled in the way that it offers students an easy way to share and preserve their memories of the night they’ve waited all year for. However, the true values and principles of the prom are often questioned.
It seems there is so much focus on transport, outfit and venue choices that the event risks becoming more about aesthetics than celebrating the achievements of the last five years. There is, consequently, a level of financial and peer pressure on both students and parents, as prom approaches and students feel anxious to step up and meet the expectations which seem to be integral to this event. 
Lack of relaxation
Social media, for all its benefits, could be seen to exacerbate this pressure. The ease with which we can publish images means the prom is no longer a special, one off evening. Instead, the sharing and commenting on photos lasts for days afterwards.
Whilst it’s fantastic that students are able to look back on their evening, will they ever really be able to relax if they’re constantly worrying about looking perfect in the pictures that will characterise their Facebook profiles for the next month?
Perhaps social media even incites a level of competition somewhat contradictory to the values the prom should stand for. The ‘like’ feature on Instagram and Facebook, for example, can facilitate a mindset of comparison where people can compare the responses to their photos to those of their friends.
Whilst social media and trends like the ‘selfie’ can undoubtedly be huge self esteem boosters, it’s not hard to see that this can also be harmful to the self image of young people. Surely the prom could be more fully enjoyed if it allowed one night off from the social media-fuelled pressure to be picture-perfect?
High cost, high pressure
Indeed, the influence of social media seems to have put so much focus on prom photos that even the setting for the images has become important. Classy limos and venues significantly more sophisticated than the school hall are simply the norm for proms today, in order to ensure that the whole evening is visually impressive.
Although this has simply come to be expected of high school proms, it’s actually pretty extravagant and doesn’t come cheap. Social media then, is perhaps not only responsible for pressure on teenagers, but pressure on parents and teachers to splash cash in order to help facilitate those perfect Instagram snaps.
Despite everything that can be said for the pressures of the prom, there’s no doubt that it is an enjoyable and memorable night. It’s one of the few times in our lives where we can really dress up and feel like royalty, and the school leavers of 2014 should without a doubt fully embrace it!
However, it should be kept in mind that prom is about having fun on the night, not about what Instagram looks like the next day. Leaving school doesn’t come around again, so the night shouldn’t be spent worrying about looking flawless, and would probably be enjoyed a lot more if students logged off the internet to have a good dance!
Do you think social media puts pressure on students to make their proms picture-perfect? Let us know in the comments below.
Photo: Jason Meredith / Flickr