Homecoming: The original social network


By Camron Owens

University of Illinois Homecoming celebrations began in 1910 to attract past alumni back to the school for a football game against a rival team. This created a long-standing tradition at the University, giving alumni an excuse to visit their former home, reconnect with old friends and celebrate the memories they made on campus.

But, today, one might ask, why should Homecoming matter to us in the age of social networking?

In today’s world, Homecoming could easily be seen as a thing of the past. With social media and the Internet, Homecoming could seem unnecessary. People are easily able to stay connected with one another and the University through websites like Facebook and Twitter long after they graduate.

But in the pre-Internet world, it made sense for Homecoming to be a large event that many looked forward to and attended. Obviously, there were no social network sites to keep people connected. But despite our relatively new ability to maintain connections, Homecoming remains important, as it always will. 

The connections one has with their school and returning to it run deeper than social networking sites ever could.

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Homecoming has become a tradition that unites us more deeply and in a different way than most social networks. It lets us share a face-to-face experience and celebrate our school with classmates and former students. 

Another bonus: I don’t have to sift through countless selfies that get posted “just because.”

Homecoming brings people of all ages together to celebrate the University. While we may all come from different places around the world and work in different industries, we can all unite as one to celebrate the campus that made each of us who we are. 

Gatherings like these are a rarity in today’s world.

Once it has brought us together, Homecoming allows us to share stories and memories with one another, face-to-face. I have always associated the Homecoming atmosphere with school spirit, nostalgia and pride, which creates a welcoming and fun environment unrivaled by a website that we often check on a glowing computer screen when we’re bored.

I’ve been coming to the University of Illinois Homecoming events with my father, an Illinois alumnus, since I was young. He would always show me around the University and tell me about his time here as a student. We would watch the parade, and I would marvel at all of the different clubs and groups the University had to offer, dreaming that I would one day be a part of this institution.

Now, as a University student, I’ve made my own memories in these places.

As I look forward to celebrating Homecoming yearly as a current student, I am also excited to be able to return for the event after I graduate. While I can scroll though posts and pictures from my campus experience, Homecoming will give me an opportunity to fully reflect on my time at the University.

About a month ago I went to my hometown’s Homecoming event. There was a parade, a football game and gatherings for former classes around town. Being an alumnus, rather than a student, reminded me how different my life was before college. 

Sure, there are plenty of statuses and pictures posted from high school classmates, especially for the social media trend #ThrowbackThursday, but being there and retracing the steps I once walked as a high school student gave me an experience that social media cannot provide.

By returning to my old school, football field and friends, I saw a different perspective of my high school. Being older and having experienced more academically and socially, I realized just how small and simple things are in high school and how many of the things that I thought of as important then do not matter to me now. 

Reflecting on this part of my past made me realize how someday I will probably look back on college in a similar way.

Homecoming is an event that is still relevant and rewarding even in today’s digital world. It is a time when everyone is in the same place, connecting and reconnecting in ways that cannot be done with a computer.

Camron is a junior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected].