Not more than a decade ago, students dressed in caps and gowns were forced to sit silently and sweat in the blazing sun as guest speakers offered words of wisdom to graduating college seniors during commencement.

But during the celebrations of several of Boston's newest graduating classes on Sunday, the ceremonies were far more interactive.

With the flood of social media platforms available at peoples' fingertips, officials from Suffolk and Boston University, as well as Tufts, took full advantage of connecting the audience with their respective events.

"You used to tell people to leave their phones at home because basically, your participation was passive. What has changed, in a great way ... is that the audience is now integrated as part of an event like this," said George T. Comeau, director of digital and interactive communications at Suffolk University.


Comeau said this year's commencement had the most technology involved since he started working at the school in 1987.

"[We] have to look at where technology is going and direct how it is going to help us tell stories," said Comeau about Suffolk's use of Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare and Storify yesterday.

Much like Suffolk's integration of social media, officials at Boston University used hashtags to engage both the families and the students at commencement.

"We share things, whether photos or musings going on," said Tom Testa, assistant vice president of public relations at BU. "Given that everyone is online and everything is on peoples' handhelds, it's another way for people to connect."

Testa said this is especially helpful for family and friends across the country, unable to be in Boston yesterday.

"It's a better way to give it that personal touch," he said.

Staying connected at Suffolk

Students could check in for special commencement badge on Four Square

Text messages could be sent to a special screen seen by students as they graduated.

The staff spent time re-tweeting student messages and family messages using the hashtag #Suffolk2012

By 10:40 a.m. Sunday, Suffolk was trending on Twitter
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