Over the past couple months, coronavirus has lead to the cancelation of many things: film festivals, concerts, movie releases, and even city-wide events like New York's annual Pride Parade. But perhaps saddest of all is the cancelation of graduations and other end-of-year events for the Class of 2020. While the spring semester is usually a time of great joy for most seniors, in the wake of COVID-19, these same seniors, many of which have probably been waiting for this moment for at least 3.5 years, have been forced to quarantine at home while taking online classes and staying far apart from their friends and fellow classmates. It's a sad reality, but it's also one that Facebook and Instagram are trying to combat (at least partially) as they arrange #Graduation2020, a virtual graduation ceremony meant to celebrate all the seniors whose final semester has been upended by this unprecedented pandemic.
Described in a press release as a "multi-hour streaming event," #Graduation2020: Facebook and Instagram Celebrate the Class of 2020 will "acknowledge high schools and colleges in the US by name, state by state, including photos and videos of the Class of 2020 and messages from deans and principals across the country." Held on May 15th, the legendary Oprah Winfrey will give the event's commencement address while the Grammy-nominated Miley Cyrus provides entertainment with a special performance of her 2009 hit "The Climb." As if that wasn't enough, Golden Globe winners Awkwafina and Jennifer Garner, multi-Grammy winner Lil Nas X, Olympic world champion gymnast Simone Biles, and more will all stop by to offer some "words of wisdom for the Class of 2020."
In the week leading up to the official event, Instagram will host daily programming that "spotlights iconic senior experiences — from 'most likely' votes to portrait showcases to Senior Skip Day." During that time, the platform will also roll out some new special features and in-app tools, such as a graduation countdown sticker, a celebratory sticker pack, new AR effects, and a custom hashtag page for #Graduation2020. On the day of, Facebook and Instagram will encourage participating graduates to host their own virtual ceremonies and parties by providing special things like a virtual graduation hub, custom filters, Messenger Rooms (where your family and friends can join in), and more.
Speaking about their decision to organize this event, Marne Levine, Facebook's VP of Global Partnerships, Business and Corporate Development, noted, "This is a bittersweet time for the Class of 2020. As students head toward graduation, it’s not the day they might have imagined — no processions, no diploma handoffs, no parties. They are commencing at a time of great uncertainty. But graduating is a tremendous achievement, and worth pausing to celebrate even in these circumstances."
So if you are one of the many seniors around the world who won't get to walk the stage and shake your dean's hand (or if you just want to listen to a speech by Oprah and a live performance by Miley Cyrus), get ready to move those tassels to the left and throw your caps high up into the sky. This should be a fun (virtual) ride.
#Graduation2020: Facebook and Instagram Celebrate the Class of 2020 will take place on May 15th at 2:00pm ET and will broadcast live on Facebook Watch with select segments posted on the official Instagram account.