FOCO: What happened, and what can we learn from it?

Homecoming drama leads to COVID disputes

Charlie Williams, Editorial Board

Photo courtesy of Rushina Morrison on Unsplash

 

Two weeks ago, certain Oakton students– all of whom will remain anonymous– got together for a belated homecoming event, aptly dubbed FOCO– Fake Homecoming. They congregated outside for maskless photos, which would later be posted to their individual Instagrams. They went to dinner, congregated with their friends, and seemed to have a good time.

On October 21st,  a post was added to the OHS Thoughts Instagram page, a place where Oakton students can anonymously express their opinions. The post in question has since been deleted, but the subject matter was simple; an unnamed student mused that FOCO wasn’t as big a deal as people were making it out to be. A subsequent slide, not necessarily from the same person, poked fun at the people getting angry at FOCO attenders for violating COVID guidelines.

Within hours of its upload, the post had hundreds of comments. A day later, and the post had surpassed 1,000 comments– 1,000 student voices making their points heard. Sides were quickly taken, split along social, political, and ideological lines. While plenty of people were merely stating their opinions, debates began to spread like wildfire as well. To truly understand what happened, it might be best to explore the different perspectives of the debate.

“To be frank, we were surprised,” said the anonymous manager of the OHS Thoughts page. “This wasn’t the first post about FOCO, and it was one of the tamer ones.”

For reference, most OHS Thoughts posts come down to basic statements about Oakton and student life in general, with no more than a few comments per post.

On the massive student input in the comments section, the manager said, “We think it’s good to foster discussion in the Oakton community; however, this comment section ended up creating a lot of division and toxicity, and at points led to political arguments unrelated to the post at all.”

One of the most active voices against FOCO in the comments, Ling Ling Xu had a very prominent stance on the debate. “I wasn’t angry at the people who posted about FOCO,” she explained, “I was more disappointed that they were being unsafe. I can’t blame people for wanting to have fun or see friends because I want to do the same thing, and I do see my friends. However, when I see them we always have masks on and we’re outside.”

Understanding Ling Ling’s point might shed some light upon some of the more vocal outrage. COVID-wary families have kept their children isolated from the outside world for months now, for fear of catching the virus that has taken the lives of 215,000 Americans nationwide. Seeing others enjoying their own freedom is no doubt a difficult thing to watch.

From the other side of the aisle, a student who was more open to the idea of FOCO (and who wished to remain anonymous) had something to say.

“Not all FOCOs were unacceptable,” the source stated. “Those who wore masks and didn’t go in large groups or blatantly ignore health guidelines are great! Go for it, have fun with select friends SAFELY– it’s human nature. However, those who completely disregarded health guidelines, and proceeded to attack others for criticizing their selfish behavior, being defiant by purposely posting more FOCO  pics during the height of the discourse and saying they’re ready for winter formal, is NOT okay.”

A big theme this anonymous source highlighted was a much-needed moderation of criticism. As the 1,000 comments would suggest, students were not shy to state exactly what they thought of their peers breaking quarantine. More often than not, however, critique for FOCO became an overarching issue that encompassed anyone who had planned a homecoming event– even the people that did it safely. A distinction, in this case, is very important to keep in mind.

OHS Thoughts, of course, has the last word on the matter. “We believe one of the strong suits of [our page] is how there is the freedom to express yourself. Be respectful and understanding because we all go to the same school, so hurting other people in the comments isn’t going to do any good. However, healthy discussions are fine.”