By: Mia McElhatton (281)

When I look up CHS in the Instagram search bar, account after account pops up: @chs281.grads, @dontsleepon.chs, @chs_love_birds, etc. Students at Central-and students across the country- have created hundreds of accounts posting about quite literally everything. One of my favorite pages was the @dontsleepon.chs page: a page that captures the countless sleeping students throughout the day. All of these pages seem- and, for the most part, are- harmless, a way of documenting the lives of the group of students that so happen to go to Central High School.

Yet the existence of all these different pages serves to do more than just document. Pages such as the anti-masker page, which features pictures of those failing to wear their masks or wear them properly, have a clear goal in mind: to shame students and teachers into acting properly, acting in accordance with the rules of the school/society. These pages rely on the participation of the student body as many simply repost pictures sent in. This participation from the student body creates a sense of never quite knowing when someone may report you. For many students, myself included, the threat of being reposted on these pages is simply a joke, not something to worry about. However, these pages illustrate a new phenomenon of constant comfortable observation and shame as a technique for obeying social norms. 

This practice is reminiscent of Foucault’s theory of the Panopticon. The Panopticon is a theoretical prison in which all of the cells are situated in a circle around a guard tower. The prisoners cannot see into the guard tower, but the guard can constantly see the prisoners who have no privacy from the guard’s watchful eye. In other words, because the prisoners do not know when they are being observed they will constantly behave as if they are being observed. In this way, the guards of the norms of Central are one another: your friend, a random peer in 3rd period, or an utter stranger in the halls. Though I do not feel this practice has truly changed the behavior of students, this phenomenon highlights the normalization of constant surveillance. Surveillance can be weaponized by those in power and which can cause increased constant paranoia. This normalization of surveillance raises slight concerns about how our small participation in a seemingly silly action can have larger implications for society at large.

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