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Facebook as a prom essential

Social media site adds buzz before first dance

Arlington High students wait to board buses to their junior prom. Arlington High students wait to board buses to their junior prom. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)
By Sarah Corrigan
Globe Correspondent / May 19, 2011

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Shannon Palmer tried on nearly 30 dresses before finding the full-length, one-shouldered purple gown that seemed perfect for her Natick High junior/senior prom.

“I wanted to have a dress that no one else had, because you want to be unique for prom,’’ said Palmer, a 17-year-old junior.

But just to make sure, she visited a Facebook page where girls preparing for tomorrow night’s event at Gillette Stadium could upload and share photos of their gowns.

“A few minutes after I posted my dress, a girl Facebooked me and said she had the same dress as me in black,’’ Palmer said. “We were both really understanding about it, and said we’d take a same-dress picture at the prom together.’’

Some elements of high school proms have been around for decades — formal dresses, tuxedos, wrist corsages, limos, awkwardly posed photos — but today the tradition is increasingly linked to social media sites like Facebook. For many teens, the Internet platform is the place to see and be seen before, during, and after important events.

“I belong to five separate Facebook groups all relating to prom,’’ said Palmer. “I have a prom committee group, a prom dress group, a before-prom inbox group, an after-prom inbox group, and a prom event page.’’

Siddharth Hiregowdara, junior class president at Arlington High School, created a Facebook event page for the school’s May 12 junior prom not only as the best way to quickly distribute information, but also to add a layer of authenticity in the digital age.

“Everything is just an idea until it’s on Facebook,’’ said Hiregowdara. “It’s pretty much unquestionable that we would use it over fliers because it’s the easiest way to get the word out to the most number of people. And it took like five minutes.’’

The page had a distinct peer-to-peer tone, promising “Prom’s gonna be sweet. Deuces.’’

For Olivia Leiberthal, a junior at King Philip Regional High School in Wrentham, Facebook was essential in planning her preprom gathering — one that involved coordinating a staggering 45 people to take photos at her house, and securing a bus that would get them all to and from the junior prom venue safely.

“There were times where I just had to sign off because all the notifications were really overwhelming,’’ she said.

At Natick High, buzz about the junior/senior prom started to build at the beginning of the school year, when Palmer and members of the prom committee created a Facebook page to organize and advertise fund-raising efforts to help offset the prom’s cost.

Then, in late March, the committee created an event page to centralize information about the prom and distribute it electronically to as many Facebook users as possible among the 648 students in the junior and senior classes.

Palmer and the prom committee, advised by teacher Ashley Mabardy, posted information about ticket pricing, venue policies, and how to bring a date from another school. Entirely run by students, the prom’s event page provided a forum to ask questions, complain about ticket prices, and find out who among their classmates would be attending.

“The Facebook page is great,’’ said Mabardy. “It gets the kids on board so that they all know what is going on. I think it allows them to communicate better about how they’re going to get there safely, and what they’re going to do.’’

Natick senior Jaime Turcotte said she created a separate prom dress page in March to limit duplicate gowns and avoid tense moments at the dance itself.

“I had a friend who went to prom one year and saw a girl who was wearing her dress and was freaking out all night. I really didn’t want to see another girl go through that.’’ said Turcotte. “But, it’s prom and it’s girls and it’s fashion — we just want to avoid drama.’’

Turcotte said all of the page’s 100 contributors have been supportive, commenting on how beautiful dresses are and asking questions about plans for hair, shoes, and accessories. The downside, said Turcotte, is that the page takes away the surprise factor many girls like to have when making their grand entrance.

Palmer said she is eager to get past the planning stages and move on to the main event, which will most likely be followed up by dozens — if not hundreds — of photos tagged on Facebook showing classmates posing in their finest and dancing the night away.

“I just hope to remember prom as being a lot of fun, dancing with my friends, and taking silly pictures,’’ she says, adding that last year as a sophomore attending the prom, she posted real-time photos on Facebook from her cellphone. “It also kind of feels like it kicks off the end of school and the start of summer.’’

A fun summer that, no doubt, high school students will log onto Facebook to help plan.

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