NCSSM is an unusual high school when it comes to social media. Platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok are popular, but they must compete with Facebook. Yes, in 2020, NCSSM students regularly use Facebook for everything from club communication to sharing jokes. At most high schools, students dismiss Facebook as their parents’ social media. Yet the platform is prominent in the life and culture of NCSSM.
“When I was accepted, I thought it would be unnecessary and weird to have a Facebook,” says Gaby Tucker ‘21, “but now, after seeing all of the club information, advice, and jokes that are shared, I know [Facebook] is really important if you want to be engaged with other students and really know what NCSSM culture is.”
Although there are clearly negative aspects of the platform, such as cyberbullying and poor time management that give some mixed or negative feelings about it, there are positive aspects as well, such as an online community that makes communication at a big school relatively easy.
Typically, when a student is admitted into NCSSM, they will join the NCSSM Classes page, a members-only group that is probably NCSSM’s most visited Facebook page. Here, students are given space to promote upcoming club meetings and events, have any question or concern responded to within minutes, and express opinions regarding any aspect of the school. The group admins, current seniors, were chosen to monitor the members of the page against inappropriate posts.
On the less serious side, students indulge in satirical or practical NCSSM Polls (“Favorite TV show?” “What Mini Term are you doing?” “Mayonnaise?” “Should I plot revenge, do homework, or go to sleep?”), post funny out-of-context statements or images on the Overheard and Overseen pages, and find the love of their life (or the month) via NCSSM Matchmaking. It is with Facebook that students campaign for student government elections, and Facebook also allows students to express their views on student government bills they wish to see passed.
Before this year, many residence halls used Facebook pages as their primary means of communication, but over the summer, the administration decided to move away from the platform. Vanessa Ponce has been a Community Coordinator at NCSSM for nine years, and she likes that she doesn’t have to get on Facebook as much.
Student Life “had notice[d] Facebook becoming very toxic,” she said. “Many students reported negative behavior, cyberbullying… those types of things.” She continued, “Most students are very dependent on Facebook to communicate with each other, and some students come in without a Facebook and assume that they need one to be here.” She explained that Student Life didn’t want students to think they need a Facebook to participate in official hall activities, so halls are trying out new platforms for communication, such as Band and Google Hangouts.
“Personally, because I don’t have it for hall, I don’t get on Facebook as much,” she said. “For me, I like to stay on top of a lot of current events, and lately it’s been pretty negative, so I feel like it’s good for my mental health. For the most part, Facebook is just a place where I can post cute pictures of my cousin. It’s been nice this year; I’m definitely not as active on it.”
Seniors Grace Guinan and Lilah Craig are not huge Facebook fans, either.
Grace said, “I don’t enjoy Facebook, and I always miss things because I don’t look on Facebook. So for me, the platform makes NCSSM culture worse.”
Lilah agreed. “People are always saying that they post everything on Facebook, but if you’re a person who really never does social media, then you don’t know what’s going on. If you’re technologically challenged, it’s bad.”
Senior Declan Cambey thinks Facebook is good and bad. “I think that Facebook has created a community of individuals quick to judge others’ circumstances, so all in all it is detrimental,” he said. “I do admire its impact on communication, though. I think the various groups and pages on Facebook are admirable in that they allow like-minded individuals to connect in a seamless fashion.”
Senior Sellers Hill thinks Facebook has had a good impact on the school. “For the most part, Facebook is a unifying force that allows [NCSSM students] to experience inside jokes and shared experiences that we might not have had if it wasn’t there,” he said. “Because we have a lot of work and things to do, we can’t be everywhere at once. It’s nice to have a central place where we can go and be like, ‘Oh, the women’s basketball team won their game!’ or, ‘This funny thing happened, and now I know about it!’”
Before I came to NCSSM, I didn’t have a Facebook account. Now, having lived at NCSSM for one and a half academic years, I am bothered by how difficult it is to avoid Facebook as a student here—and I am frustrated by the void into which I am sucked every time I open the app. I worry that the use of Facebook as a primary means of organization creates a less inclusive NCSSM by encouraging poor time management, limited communication, and contrived interactions. But given how ingrained it is in the culture here, I don’t see being able to put it aside entirely.
— Jane Wilson is an NCSSM student in the class of 2020 who serves in the position of Communications Content Creator. She focuses on writing stories about life at NCSSM from the student perspective.