Dear Incoming Class: A Look into Stuyvesant’s Facebook Culture

An examination of Stuyvesant’s dependence on Facebook, a flawed yet undeniably unique staple of the student body.

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Cover Image
By Ori Mermelstein

So much about the Stuyvesant experience is unique: running up broken escalators to get to class on time, being granted extensions on homework during SING! season, and seeing hundreds of kids don the same gym uniform on any given day. Perhaps most typical is students’ reliance on Facebook for extracurricular activities, advice, and a sense of community. The app is often ridiculed due to its 40-and-older user base, but class after class of Stuyvesant students have rejected that notion, embracing it as a central form of communication.

 Facebook is marketed as an essential resource for Stuyvesant students immediately after their acceptance into the school. Many freshmen are advised by their Big Sibs to create an account months before the school year even begins. “I was first told to join Facebook during Camp Stuy Part One [in June]. The Big Sibs were like, ‘Oh, it’s how our school runs, you should definitely join it,’” freshman Laiba Sidu recalled. “[At first,] I was like, I don't think I should join it, because all I’ve known before is that it’s something for old people.”

Indeed, Facebook’s layout can seem a bit dated. Upon opening the app, users are greeted with a never-ending feed of posts, both from groups they belong to and miscellaneous, algorithm-generated videos. After navigating to a specific group, the easiest way to view posts is by scrolling through the most recent activity. This means that whenever an announcement or question is posted, it typically only has a few days to be noticed before becoming lost in an ever-growing heap of new posts.

Though the popularity of most Facebook posts is short-lived, the vast majority of students have found the platform immensely helpful. Senior Caucus Co-President Zidane Karim, who serves as an administrator on each grade’s “Dear Incoming Class…” advice page, believes that Facebook’s layout is more conducive to student communication than other social media platforms are. “We have 3,200 students and not everyone follows each other on Instagram or something like that, so Facebook is more central. It’s also easy [for younger students] to find out information from [older] grades,” Karim wrote in an e-mail interview. The fact that each grade has their own advice page means that juniors can ask questions directly in the senior group, for example, without interrupting the feeds of freshmen.

Like many Stuyvesant students, junior Gabriella Hoefner uses Facebook, mainly as a resource for school and extracurricular activities. When asked how often she checks the platform, Hoefner said, “I’d say I check it pretty frequently just for club announcements [...] but I don’t post too much [in Facebook groups] other than school stuff.” Though students like Hoefner primarily make use of Facebook’s club-related and academic resources, the platform hosts several other subgroups of the online Stuyvesant community. There are public pages for confessions, Facebook Marketplace pages for students to sell clothes and textbooks, and more. 

While those niche communities are run more informally, the “Dear Incoming Class…” advice pages are strictly supervised  by each grade’s Caucus Presidents, the Student Union President and Vice President, and the five Big Sib Chairs. Sophomore Caucus Co-President Vanna Lei explained that administrators are responsible for screening comments for each page and ensuring that members follow community guidelines. The rules of the “Dear Incoming Class…” pages ban hate speech and bullying, commercial promotions, spam, and users who are not Stuyvesant students. “As Facebook admin[istrators], we [view requests from] the people who ask to join the community. There are many random or spam accounts that request to join so we filter them out based on if they actually go to Stuyvesant High School or not,” Lei added. 

Administrators also have to approve of anonymous posts in each advice group before they become visible to members. Administrators have access to each anonymous poster’s Facebook profile, but Karim noted, “I don’t see [their names] unless I physically go to check.” Students choose to go anonymous for a multitude of reasons: they may be introverted, embarrassed about the content of their post, or uncertain about revealing grades or personal experiences to thousands of group members. However, as Karim noted, “Mostly [students] use [the anonymous posting feature] just to ask the same questions that [are asked] publicly. People don’t always like to be in the spotlight and the anonymous function is great for that.” The feature, which is unique to Facebook, can create a tighter online community where students feel comfortable instead of vulnerable. 

Despite the support offered by the Stuyvesant Facebook community, some students have qualms about the platform and its usage. At the beginning of every school year, students from every grade flock to Facebook armed with screenshots of their schedules in search of advice regarding their teachers and courses. Many consider it a helpful way of mentally preparing for each class before the first day of school. But some, including Lei, object to this practice. “This is a personal opinion, but I disapprove of students asking about what their teachers are like. Many comments are biased and [cause] students [to] start the semester with a negative or positive attitude about someone,” Lei said. “We need more comments that talk about a teacher's teaching style [...] instead of saying ‘Oh, you'll learn nothing. Good luck!’” 

Facebook is a place where students can completely rely upon their peers for all types of information. While this can foster a supportive community and allow for inter-grade bonds to form, it can also bring students to blindly trust any and all comments they read. Accepting the views of others at face value without considering different learning styles or academic backgrounds can cause unnecessary fear and anxiety about a class, which may translate to poor perceptions of teachers. Such interactions are unproductive and destructive to the learning experience.

 Karim also noted that a sudden influx of these posts every September can be overwhelming for students, especially due to Facebook’s layout. “Facebook is a bit dated in terms of its user experience. It’s really hard to find a post you’ve already seen before for some reason,” Karim said. Additionally, the inaccessibility of the search feature means that groups can quickly be flooded with unnecessary posts. “People kind of spam the same ‘rate my teachers’ posts with a screenshot of their schedule, which gets annoying since they can search [the group for older posts].” It can be difficult to master the ins and outs of Facebook’s layout, and many students would rather receive a direct answer on their own posts than go hunting for one in the dredges of the group’s history. 

Despite its drawbacks, most Stuyvesant students plan on staying active on Facebook for their entire high school careers. “I think it has become useful for class group chats and club announcements and just getting information about Stuy,” Hoefner said. “I definitely wouldn’t have gotten Facebook if I didn’t go here, and I probably won’t use it after I graduate.” Though it is an unexpected part of the Stuyvesant experience, Facebook has become a quintessential element of the school culture. It has built a community in which people can interact freely and build long-lasting connections. 

In fact, some Stuyvesant alumni continue to use the platform after graduating, including Michelle Hu (‘23). Though she isn’t as active on the platform as she was when she attended Stuyvesant, Hu still uses her account to remain connected to her alma mater. “I do occasionally check [Facebook] to see what friends are up to as well as see the incoming class posts and occasionally give advice to underclassmen,” Hu said. Clearly, Facebook provides a way for Stuyvesant students to maintain friendships during college and beyond. For current students, it can be invaluable to hear the perspectives of those who have already experienced both a full four years at Stuyvesant and the college application process.

The Stuyvesant experience can be unique, confusing, and turbulent, making advice and guidance immensely valuable to students of all ages. Facebook has become a place of mutual benefit and codependency, demonstrating Stuyvesant students’ impressive capability for compassion.