Some high school seniors have created their own yearbooks on Instagram to celebrate their post-graduation plans and keep their classmates updated on life while social distancing.
"Since we're not going to really get to graduate together or see each other one last time all together, we thought we'd make an Instagram account," said Sarah Szabo, a co-creator of an account honoring seniors at North Springs Charter School of Arts and Sciences in Georgia. "Normally at school we'd have pictures and announcements on the monitors showing what people are doing after graduation, but we couldn't have that this year."
The account, like others that were started after schools closed at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., began as a way for students to share snapshots of their lives, but has since transformed into a digital yearbook where students can leave messages for their fellow classmates and commend them on their milestone.
"I don't personally know everyone in my grade, since we have hundreds of students in our class, so it's really cool to see what everyone's up to," said Lindy Feintouch, who manages the account with Szabo and their other classmate, Lauren Cohen.
"Our school is a magnet school where people get bussed in across the county, and the #3 student in our grade, who takes hours to come to school, is going to Stanford and it's really nice to be able to celebrate each other and our achievements and to see people you don't even know leaving kind comments on your posts."
Billy Duke, a senior at Friends Academy in New York, began his school's Instagram page for Spirit Week, an event held months before the pandemic. He revived the account once his school transitioned to virtual learning as a way for students to maintain communication and share their experiences. He has given every senior the account's password so they can "post whatever they want."
"We've remained together over Zoom and Google hangouts, and that does part of the trick in maintaining our school community academically, but beyond academics there’s so much more that goes into a school, the clubs, academics, plays, all of which has been canceled," Duke said. "I think the Instagram account is us trying to find that sense of community outside of the school work."
Duke said that for now, students are posting their collages with a picture, where they intend to go to school and what they plan to study, but within the next few weeks, he expects students will go back to sharing pictures of high school memories and other life updates.
"They can post TikToks of themselves, little messages on the story, photos of what they’re eating, whatever they want," Duke said. "It's kind of sad that we can't physically sign each other's yearbooks but in the absence of that, this Instagram account gives us a chance to maintain some sense of tradition."
Jeremy Budinski, a senior at Leland Public School in Michigan, said he proposed creating an Instagram account for seniors as a "joke" during a school meeting, but now that the account is live, he sees the important role it fills in acknowledging his fellow classmates' successes and keeping in contact.
"We went from seeing each other and talking to each other every day to only seeing each other through video calls or not seeing each other at all," Budinski, who manages the account with two of his classmates, said.
The accounts, which were first reported by the New York Times, have become a greater source of comfort as students celebrate what would have been their final days of school apart in their separate homes.
Gillian Grobbel of Leland Public School said that her school would usually host a "Decision Day," where classmates can dress up in gear from the colleges they plan to attend. Duke said that on the last day of school, there's been a longstanding tradition to have a waterslide and food truck — celebrations students had been looking forward to since they began their high school careers.
"High school is an already a crazy time and the coronavirus makes it even more so," Duke said. "I try to keep it in perspective, especially because my father is a doctor and I see how difficult this situation and how it's a lot worse for so many people, but it's disappointing for sure, so it's nice to come together with our classmates while we figure everything out."