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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Whither the Acceptance Pic?

<u pay close attention, you can definitely tell the signs of changes that go up while the leaves fall today, and like the leaves this year, these signs are showing more conspicuously than before. Even sophomores can say things following “back in my day,” from “Back in my day, Crack House was alive on Wednesday nights” to “Back in my day, I paid twenty-five cents less for laundry.” (I’m holding out to see if “Back in my day, they used to throw around the word ‘nonner’ a lot” can happen.)

A good lot of us on campus thought about the traditions back in our day as we witnessed a new variation on a theme when it came to social networking before coming to Carleton. Because back in someone’s day, we didn’t post pictures of ourselves with our acceptance letters to social media.

Let’s face it though, many of us did it long before the Class of 2018 did. If I’m not mistaken, the Class of 2017 was encouraged to by either Admissions or by another official entity to post photos of themselves with their acceptance letters. Hell, I uploaded my selfie with the blue folder in December sometime after acceptance. Somebody you know has done it, even if it didn’t end up online.

It just so happens that before the Class of 2018 arrived two weeks ago, all of us here on campus witnessed the steady stream of their acceptance pics on Facebook and the other social networks. These acceptance pics have now found a niche in a young tradition: networking with each other before New Students Week. Now that virtually everyone seems to live online, it seems that we can do all our introductions there, too.

And if these pics were variations on the theme of introducing ourselves to our peers, as has been the tradition on the class groups, then these variations had variations within them, to many a striking effect. Pick the favorite variations you noticed from any class Facebook group: fascinating backdrops, well-taken angles, attention-grabbing outfits, poses, facial expressions, and the occasional ironic “non-letter” being held. (That is, something that was not the acceptance letter, was held up.) Do those kinds of photos intend to be ironic? Enter the captions. Context abounds. But even still, even after reading the salutations and fun facts shared with a photo, one has got to wonder, “What did I learn from that photo?”

At the risk of sounding repetitive, pictures are worth a thousand words, not to mention a thousand likes, retweets, reblogs, ad nauseam. Basically, there’s a whole lot of meaning in a photograph. Now let’s consider our acceptance pic phenomenon. The premise, as has been the case for networking with our future peers, has been to introduce ourselves, open up, and meet everyone who wants to do the same. The pics can then serve as vehicles of meaning, or to be precise, capture the very idea of the person who is the subject of the pic, framing it with the captions and whatever variations on the picture theme. The others, an audience that would end up viewing said pic, would proceed to comment on it (or at least notice before scrolling) or have some kind of interaction. Afterwards, this audience would definitely get some idea of said subject. All this said and done, who’s to say that this “idea of a person” was conveyed exactly to the audience?

So now we return to the question of what we learned from each other’s photos. You surely learned something, and you also surely learned nothing, too. Rather, you did become acquainted with the subject of the photo. Learning something about the “person”, more so than the “idea” or “subject” of a person, will take more than just the photo and any of the interactions that were made online: all the comments, likes, retweets and upvotes.

We all already knew that. We’ve been trained and taught for years that nothing is what it seems on the internet. But I remember the frenzy, the idyll that presented itself in knowing that Carleton beckoned, the excitement of the future that prompted me and many others to share ourselves online after acceptance, even to forget that the dimensions of the internet just might leave a few of our dimensions out. The sentiments for why we wanted to network were as varied as we were, but even then, by virtue of the lower dimensions of the internet, we all came out very different. Whether we like it or not, shaping ourselves in our online lives is the new normal. Is it tradition for us too? Let’s watch the Class of 2019 and see.

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