Evolution of a Trend Story: Tracking the 'Graduation Selfie Ban'

Here's a timeline of the "graduation selfie-ban" story's gestational journey, from its humble beginnings to its moment of syndicated glory. 

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Today, the Associated Press ran a story titled "Today's Advice to Graduates: No Selfies," about the (suggestive) ban administrators at the University of Southern Florida and Bryant University in Rhode Island have placed on students taking selfies while accepting their diplomas. Both schools said that they'd only put the ban in place to make sure the ceremonies move along, a not-unreasonable ambition, as anyone who has ever been to a graduation ceremony can attest. USF's dean essentially told the AP that the ban is meaningless. "Between you, me and the wall," he said, "that's basically an empty threat." 

Despite being rather toothless (albeit impeccably researched) the story was picked up the New York Times,  the Toronto Star and Yahoo!, among other outlets. But if sounded familiar, that the story did not exactly break today. The tale of the selfie ban — and the reactions to it — had been floating around the Internet for weeks before receiving the Times treatment. Here's a timeline of the "graduation selfie-ban" story's gestational journey, from its humble beginnings to its moment of syndicated glory. 

April 18: 

Oddly enough, the birthplace of today's AP story was ... an AP story. The Associated Press writes a brief piece on Bryant University's request to students to not take selfies when they receive their diplomas from the university president.

USA Today goes a little deeper, asking university officials to comment on the decision and explaining why the ban is in place (basically, because "selfies would slow down the ceremony" and because the school's professional photographer could end up snapping a photo of a student taking a selfie, which would be lame).

A local Houston channel picks up the story, snazzing it up with some typical local news tease intrigue:

April  21: 

The Wire contributor Lilit Marcus writes for Yahoo's Shine that "Selfie Bans Are Becoming a Thing," citing restaurants that have requested patrons not photograph their food and other incidents as a sign that the anti-selfie sentiment is growing.

Jezebel briefly writes up Marcus's story, marking more interest from the blogosphere. 

April 23:

Local news outlets report that the University of South Florida is following Bryant's lead. USF officials said that the school might withhold the diplomas of those who take a selfie during the ceremony. The Wire's Brian Feldman presented a guide on how to survive a selfie-free graduation. Now, we have a trend.

April 25: 

Other schools jump in to clarify whether or not they will also ban selfies during graduation:

And local channels are on it:

MSNBC asked readers to weigh in on whether they agree with the ban in a poll. Since it's now been a week since the original story, ThinkProgress comes in with the first debunking, warning us not to believe the hype. "There is no such thing as the graduation ban," writes ThinkProgress's Jessica Goldstein, reminding people that the scope of each ban is actually quite limited. 

April 28: 

Inside Higher Ed jumps in with its own debunking, writing that most colleges are embracing social media during graduation, rather than challenging it.

May 2: 

Today, the day of the USF graduation and two weeks to the day since the first AP report, the larger AP follow-up story is published. Which is all she wrote, until there's another follow up slideshow on all the inevitable USF graduation selfies.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.