The creators of Degrassi: Next Class promised that the series would heavily involve today’s digital universe, and they surely delivered on that promise. Not only did storylines incorporate social media elements, the show worked double time to represent how tech-heavy society has become, even in the most subtle of ways.
For example, the opening scene of #ButThatsNoneOfMyBusiness shows Lola examining her hair using her camera’s phone.
The very next shot cuts to Zig, Tiny and Maya exiting class, with Maya completely focused on her phone as Zig and Tiny debate marine animals.
In #TeamFollowBack, Lola casually uses AirPlay to project her phone’s screen onto Frankie’s television.
At times while watching Season 1 of Next Class it feels like they’re always shoving the digital world in your face. Sure it might feel like overkill, but then I remember that my existence (work/fun/Degrassi/nearly everything I do in life) is based around being online. I’m almost always within a few feet of my phone or a computer.
So much detail has been crafted into not only Degrassi’s digital universe, but representing how seamlessly these trends have integrated themselves into our daily lives. I’m not going to touch on every example in Season 1, but a lot of the points below highlight instances where something in the digital world was presented in passing.
The Social Media
Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. In the Degrassi universe Twitter is still Twitter, but over the years Degrassi has created their own versions of the first three (Facerange, Hastygram and Oomfchat). Glimpses of a character’s actual social media profiles are often quick and obscure, so it’s kind of fun to screenshot and take a closer look at a what they look like.
Yes these social media accounts are fictional, but the fact that video of Miles received almost 500 comments indicates Hastygram user NICO&DYME has to have a fairly significant follower count for a non-celebrity in order to generate that level of engagement. Other fun details to look at are the differences in follower count/photos posted on Frankie’s social accounts, and how she integrates the two. I also love how Degrassi’s official name (Degrassi C.S.) isn’t forgotten in the universe.
If you aren’t creepin, you aren’t alive
Frankie does a web search for Jonah in #SinceWeBeinHonest and it comes up empty. However, we the viewers know that at the very least Jonah has a Hastygram. Lola and Shay convinced Frankie that someone’s kinda shady if they aren’t online, but what if they are online and just don’t want all of our nosy asses up in their personal business?
I know several Degrassians who practically guard their real identity from the general fandom with their lives. As completely casual as some of us fans have been about meeting each other (I’m still not sure why y’all wanna meet up with me when I could very well be a serial killer), it took a little while to adjust to the fact some Degrassians don’t have a
Facerange Facebook, or if you type their name into any search it’s as if they don’t exist.
6+ years later, I still don’t know if fellow Degrassian Heather Poulette is an actual person.
Don’t forget about that ancient thing called e-mail
The e-mail notification about Hunter having sent Mr. H a picture through Facerange is interesting. We know Miles isn’t communicating with his father and we can safely assume Frankie hasn’t really either. However, throughout all of the Hollingsworth family drama Hunter has always shown a fondness toward his father, hence Hunter actually keeping in contact with him.
Say what you meme and meme what you say
Everything is turned into a meme these days. Hell, at least half of the photos on my twitter are weird reaction shots. They’re now a part of our online language as a way to convey emotion.
The same concept applies to emojis:
Different strokes for different folks
ZOE: Did you check Hastygram DMs?
TRISTAN: Of course.
TRISTAN: First place I looked.
TRISTAN: Is that a joke?
ZOE: Wait…isn’t he in grade 10?
I work in radio. Though we’d like to have people of all ages listening to our station, we have a specific demographic we target. Our crowd primarily uses Facebook, so that’s where we focus the most socially. I love how Degrassi quietly points out that age does play a factor in which social sites people are using and how frequently they’re using them.
WHY CAN’T I HAVE A SHAY TO MY TINY
Nowadays, there are so many ways to communicate with people that you can stay in near constant contact with anyone and everyone. It’s odd saying it out loud, but I don’t even have the phone numbers of the two Degrassians I talk to the most; we’ve established a dialogue through messenger or DM’s, and it’s just easier to stick with whatever platform you started talking on.
One of the strange things about Degrassi over the years is that sometimes you could be convinced the characters don’t actually communicate with each other outside of the times we see them physically together. So it was pleasantly surprising when we saw that not only did Tiny and Shay text each other, they did so on the regular. And they have their own lingo…if a guy’s sending you goodnight messages, he’s into you. My Shiny feels have returned!
Social media can distort perception
I’ll go deeper into the whole Zig/Maya/Jonah thing at a later date, but man did that scene where Zig sees a Hastygram pic of Maya and Jonah hit a nerve. The funny thing is there’s plenty of memes as well as serious quotes addressing people not responding to your messages, but then you suddenly witness them posting online or popping up in other people’s pictures. It doesn’t matter how many times we’re told that what people post about their lives online doesn’t tell the whole story, but it’s such an easy trap to consistently fall back into.
The gaming world
In #ButThatsNoneOfMyBusiness we see Hunter walking around watching a gaming livestream on his phone, something I do on occasion. There’s always a wide variety of crowdfunding campaigns online from people asking for help with their bills to getting tens of thousands of dollars to make potato salad, but I’ve always been fascinated by those gamers who can get people to regularly donate to their streams, no matter how small the amount. As I watch people able to make a living off of live streams, Youtube videos and competitive gaming, this industry is no joke. Hunter’s actions in season 1 were absolutely inexcusable. However, as someone whose generally looked down upon by his peers, it’s also easy to understand why he’d take it personally that something he’s passionate about and really good at was taken away from him.
I have nothing to add here, I just wanted people to read the actual comments posted about Maya. I can only imagine how vulgar these messages could’ve been if Degrassi would’ve been able to create them with no restrictions.
Live incidents on social media
These tweets are what actually inspired me to write this post. In this brief shot before a tense confrontation between Maya and Zoë, I love how Degrassi subtly depicts what social media is like during a crisis.
Maya’s just casually scrolling through her timeline during #SorryNotSorry to see what people are saying about the #Degrassilockdown. One person asks if the lockdown is a joke. Another is asking people for information about what’s going on. Then you have a couple of people tweeting things like, “Did anyone else hear a bang?” and “A guy in a mask just ran through the foyer #Keeplow.”
If you’ve ever been on twitter during an active incident, it’s pure chaos. While social media makes accessing information faster than ever, between the misinformation, people asking about what happened, people tweeting their assumptions about what happened, news organizations rushing to post the information fastest and people using the situation to push their own political or social agendas, finding the truth can be a chore. But like anything the digital age has its pros and cons, and Next Class navigates those conveniences and drawbacks at every turn in order to remind us of that.