Prom During the Pandemic Is Happening on TikTok

On Long Island, a teen wearing a prom dress does dance challenges in her kitchen. In Arizona, a girl attends prom in her aunt’s backyard with only her girlfriend. In California, an Italian exchange student gets to experience her canceled American prom in an at-home photo shoot. In South Dakota, some quick editing makes it look as though seven girls in seven different bedrooms are magically changing into prom dresses found in garment bags that they toss from screen to screen. For quite possibly the first time, prom night involves entering the clunky virtual world of Club Penguin, or wrangling a group of friends to join a Zoom call.

Celebrities and brands are trying to organize their own virtual proms in lieu of the real thing. This week, TikTok announced the official #TikTokProm: It’s not so much a prom as it is a week-long series of suggested hashtags (#PromLook, #PromPlaylist, etc.), and videos from famous people. On Saturday night, the DJ Diplo will play a live set, and viewers can submit song requests. “This is the big night every high schooler has been dreaming about since their freshman year,” the press release reads, as if anyone has been waiting to spend prom night on the internet scrolling through a hashtag with a bunch of strangers—not draping their arms around anyone, not having “zero beers, I swear.”

The actor John Krasinski hosted a virtual prom last week on his YouTube show, “Some Good News.” His former Office co-star Rainn Wilson, Chance the Rapper, and Billie Eilish phoned in on grainy video calls and Krasinski spent much of the time shouting and playing TikTok clips of teenagers dancing in front of televisions on which his shouting face was also visible. (It was “the weirdest, craziest prom” ever, according to him.)

Outside of awkward, celebrity-laden virtual proms, teens are also re-creating some elements of prom on their own. “Promposal” season is an annual tradition on the internet, but despite having nothing to propose attendance to, some high schoolers are still pursuing the specialness of making garish posters for each other that say Prom? Taylor Clayton, a 16-year-old who lives in Orlando, Florida, posted a TikTok promposal for her best friend set to the song from the Hannah Montana series finale. Her friend was so sad about the cancellation of prom, she said, it was the only thing she could think of to cheer her up. (It made her cry more.) She also hosted a Zoom call for their group of friends, and asked that everyone put on their dresses and listen to music and hang out.

“Of course, it isn’t exactly like prom,” she told me. “It was definitely not the same, because we couldn’t be together. But we just tried to stay positive and do the best we could to remake prom at our homes.”

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