The college application and selection process is stressful for most students who go through it, but one can only imagine how much the stress multiplies when the whole nation is watching. That is what Malia Obama is experiencing right now. News outlets as prominent as the New York Times are covering her touring process, and students at elite colleges across the country cross their fingers and chat over dining hall food about how cool it would be to go to the same school as President Obama’s daughter.
As most Brown students know by now, the weekend before last was Brown’s turn on the tour. Students who left campus for the long weekend can read about her stay on Buzzfeed or the Daily Dot, two of several news sources that have picked up coverage of her visit from students’ social media. The Daily Dot accurately summarized the experience when it entitled its article “Brown University had no chill when Malia Obama came to visit.”
Both articles feature several tweets from Brown students excited about Malia’s visit. Some of the tweets include photographs of her that were clearly taken when she was not looking. Many of them mention her presence at a party, where she was seen taking shots and playing beer pong.
The motivation to take these pictures was obvious: being at a party with the president’s daughter was an exciting, unexpected moment that many of us wanted to share with our friends.
We often do not think about our tweets and Snapchats reaching anyone besides our friends and followers, and certainly not news outlets with wide circulation like Buzzfeed. Many Brown students were surprised and embarrassed to see themselves cited in the articles, as other Brown students posted them on Facebook with disappointed captions that criticized their peers for not simply leaving the 17-year-old alone on her college visit.
Social media has become such an ingrained part of our daily routine that we sometimes forget the wider effects it can have. What we choose to post on social media is not just visible to our friends; it is public to the world if we do not protect our accounts.
It is a shame that Malia was unable to visit Brown and enjoy herself at a party without several news headlines coming out about it the next day. While it is understandable that so many students were excited about her visit, it is likely that few of us would enjoy having strangers take pictures of us while we were unaware and post them on the Internet.
Malia did not choose to grow up in the White House, and it is unfair that everything she does at just 17 years old is subject to such harsh scrutiny. While the chances of her selecting Brown have probably decreased since the publication of those articles, if she does ever come back to Brown, hopefully next time we will “have more chill.”
Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Manuel Contreras ’16 and Meghan Holloway ’16, and its members, Emma Axelrod ’18, Noah Fitzgerel ’17 and Aranshi Kumar ’17. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.