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Last night I received an email from Director of Communications Liz Torrey: “Okay, so, Joy, when I saw you earlier this week and I said that the senior prank post ‘went viral,’ I meant that the post was doing well relative to our other content. Well—now it really has gone viral. THIS IS NOT A JOKE.”
No, it was not a joke. A video that Austin Chuang ’23 snapped in my kitchen last week when I came down for my morning tea (at 6:00 a.m.) and discovered the Class of 2023 had snuck into the house at 1:00 a.m. and bedded down for a sleepover-slash-senior-prank, as of this moment has 3.5 million views and 1300 comments across Instagram and Facebook.
Liz continued, “Probably you’re not at all thrilled that a video of you in a bathrobe and Crocs is turning into 15 minutes of fame, but seriously, as the commenters say, your response to the kids make this place look like a dream.”
How can I be upset when this place really is a dream? It’s just funny that in our cell phone-limited and social-media-shunning school that anything we do—much less the most ordinary of moments—could “go viral.” After all, it’s not unusual for students to be all over the first floor of our house. When I first opened the door and saw unknown quantities of people in my kitchen, I was, not surprisingly, shocked. But after a beat, I realized it was Austin I had just seen in the kitchen, and thought: “Of course Austin is here; he is here a lot.” He and his friends, for example, had just spent an entire Saturday in that kitchen wearing my collection of floral aprons and cooking prom dinner for 22 students.
In our digital, remote, post-COVID, and pandemic-inflected world, the idea of “going viral” carries all sorts of valences. We are all going viral all the time around here, without phones, without social media: just with each other. If anything exciting happens anywhere on campus, we know. If someone is feeling down, we find out and rush to their side. If a team is losing their grip on a precarious lead, everyone spontaneously appears to cheer them on. If we need to find someone, we walk outside, check a couple of the usual spots, and easily find them. If there was ever proof that cell phones don’t keep us in touch, but rather push us apart, it’s this school. Thank heavens kids can gather in our homes again, pile on top of each other in common rooms, pick at each other’s dessert after dinner (this probably sounds gross to civilians, but we are used to it)—all the things we have always done at St. Andrew’s.
Now, St. Andrew’s is about to go viral once again. Our VI Formers will graduate and depart on Sunday, soon followed by the underformers next Saturday. This Sunday is the Sunday of Pentecost, the observance of the appearance of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, sending them, as the scripture says, “to the ends of the earth” to share the message of love and peace with the world. The last Sunday chapel of the year occurred this past weekend at Old St. Anne’s, and in my remarks, I drew parallels to the situation of our students. Energized by an intensive and joyful school year, our students are now called back to their homes, their families, their communities as carriers and vectors of those things of which this divided and uncertain world is very much in need: love, spirit, and inspiration.
It is my prayer and expectation that they will do so IRL and FTF, without their phones, without social media, and without the technological crutches that inhibit the connections that make us human. Let’s go viral, Saints. May it be so.
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