How Prom Season Became Our Favorite Instagram Obsession

Photographed by Georgina Martin.
Instagram has become it’s own little visual Wikipedia if we consider how many rabbit holes there are to fall into. You can feed your makeup tutorial addiction in half the time with Instagram’s one minute video limit. InstaComedians go pretty hard to make you laugh in public at their clips. And on Instagram’s discover page you might be prompted to watch dozens of videos of playing with slimy putty. With so much to explore on the ‘gram, it seems unlikely that a pretty normal high school ritual can command our attention. But it’s 2017 and the game has changed. Prom has become a pretty big deal.
Families are shelling out more cash than ever for this once (or up to four, if you’re really lucky and popular) in a lifetime opportunity. High schoolers are constructing elaborate “promposals” that definitely take longer to execute than the time I was willing to spend on any high school assignment. Long gone are the days when a regular limo was the status symbol. Today’s prom-goers are taking Bentley’s and helicopters to their venues. Louboutins and makeup contouring that could rival the Kardashians are to be expected. And some of the stunning gowns I’ve seen make me retroactively mortified about the ill-fitting, burnt orange number I wore to my own prom.
Prom has season has become its very own awards season in the social media world. The Shade Room, a thriving Instagram account that documents all aspects of our digitally obsessed culture, has caught on to this wave in the most useful way. Their TSR Prom Queenz label has inadvertently become the one-stop-shop for catching all of the bold looks from prom season. After the hashtag took on a life of its own, what started off as a roundup of some of The Shade Room’s favorite prom looks is now the place for attendees to put themselves out there for the world to see. It’s also pretty cool that TSR primarily serves communities of color and as a result, most of these amazing prom moments feature kids of color.
In the 11 few short years that have passed since I went on prom, watching the class of 2017 do their thing floods me with mixed emotions. I’m plagued by a mixture of FOMO and annoyance at the imagery. I envy the kids who can afford such pricey experiences, even though it can sometimes feel outlandish. The overwhelming feeling that I got prom wrong makes it impossible for me to look away from the teenagers who are getting it so right. Apparently, I’m not the only one.

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