Is the Year of the Yearbook Over?

by Zachary Smith
arts & life editor

There is something to be said for being able to see snapshots of your year. There is something to be said for having a tangible reminder of the formative years of your life. But, before you sign the $70 check for this year’s yearbook, I think it is important that we take some time to think about the convention of the college yearbook.

The yearbook, for a pre-Internet-age world, was a useful tool for recording the contents of a year, be it high school or college. It leant a sense of permanence to the moments depicted within the book. Many consumers enjoy the idea of a yearbook, as it gives them the ability to invoke the nostalgia of their glory days. But is the yearbook the best way to experience this sense of nostalgia? In the Internet age, do we already have a better option?

I argue that the crowdsourcing and democratizing benefits of social-media sites like Facebook and Tumblr outweigh the sites’ problems with quality of image and longevity of content.

Sites like Facebook and Tumblr generate the majority of their content from what their users input to the sites. This input can take the form of links to videos, songs, articles, other websites, etc. With a traditional yearbook, you run into the problem that the yearbook staff decides what events are important, and what details you need in order to capture the event. The problem with this control of narrative is that the book cannot represent all the perspectives of an event. This is not the fault of the yearbook, but a problem of the medium.

Sites such as Facebook allow users to create posts similar to the pages of a yearbook, but also allow room for people to comment on the veracity or content of the post. These sites allow for people to really add depth to these posts.

Just about everyone now a days has a smartphone in their pocket; with such wide access, the ability to contribute content to social media sites has led to a great democratization of content on these websites. Anyone can contribute posts that will be the markers of our memories.  This allows people, who would otherwise not be able to contribute to the process, to add their sense of events and, through collaboration, capture these memories (the process that both the yearbook and the sites wish to do, i.e. narrate memories of a time for access later).

This is not to say that these social networking sites don’t come with real problems. Providing you don’t lose or damage them, yearbooks will hold the same quality of photo and material they did when they were published. Websites, although gaining ground through crowdsourcing, are constantly edited, so material runs the risk of being removed. Websites also shut down sometimes; all memories stored on these is subject to being lost at all times.

I think it is important to remember these positives about yearbooks during this time. After all, there is a reason some colleges still have them today. However, I believe that due to their ability to take the perspectives of everyone involved and not be limited by page length, social networking websites make the yearbook an obsolete article of the past.