So, obviously, I am a fan of social media. It helps me stay connected to the larger world. I live in a small town very far away from most of the folks I have come to know and love in my mumblesomething years on this planet so in this way it is a gift. I'm far away from metropolitan areas so it is also a way for me to find out whats happening re: arts, which is kind of my thing. Even better is that I get to know what creative things my friends are up to and if I'm lucky I might even get to see what they are doing. Hooray for all of that! I remember life before the internet and while some of the cool stuff about an analog life has diminished, change is inevitable and I try not to shed too many tears over the past. (The past hasn't gone anywhere, after all, as someone wiser than I once said.)
I spend a lot of time thinking about social media as a result of it being my window into corners of the world other than mine. (This blog was almost going be called "Unpacking the Funny" about the categories thing on facebook, but then I decided that actually trying to unpack the funny would ruin the fun in the funny. So that won't be happening anytime soon.) Anyway, all of this thinking about social media + remembering Ye Olde Analog life + a concentrated effort to remember localized culture of the 90s times (for a project) made me curious about how adolescence may have been impacted by web-chatter, cell-phones and the ability to make every triumph and foible public.
I feel pretty lucky to have grown up during a time when the danger of seeing video of yourself doing something stupid in a classroom or at a party go viral was pretty much non-existent. The same is true for any sort of photographic, textual or video evidence of life experiences you'd rather forget. When I was a teenager (and yes, I am doing the elderly person cartoon voice thing, here) your community might hear about something you did and judge you for it, but beyond that you were pretty much able to do the normal teenage thing of screwing up without the possibility of the ENTIRE FRIGGIN WORLD watching you puke on that front lawn.
There's a line from my favorite movie of all time, Harold and Maude that I will quote now, "Everyone has the right to make an ass of themselves."
Yes, they do. I cling to that right with ever fiber of my being. But I wonder if I would feel that way today if the instant upload of me making an ass of myself at 15,16, or 17 would have been possible. Or would it have had the opposite effect and contributed to exhibitionism and/or narcissism? I also wonder if you have to be narcisstic to cope with this kind of stuff. I don't know, being from the olden times of the cassingle and all that, I really am just curious.
I am also curious as to how this will play out in kid's lives as they enter the workforce. That classic party picture of someone table top dancing with no pants could circulate on the internet forever. What happens when it shows up on an a search about you for an office job? What will the consequences be? Sure, I'm concerned about the individual, but I'm also thinking of the cultural implications.
I imagine something about this will change in the future. I'm thinking it can go two ways. Either there will be a sort of collective pressure to police ourselves more stringently, or we will all have to relax our judgments about the things that can happen in a moment of whimsy from people's private lives.
Obviously, there is more to it than that. I'm hoping you guys will weigh in with your thoughts on this, down yonder in the comments. There is more about this circulating in my brain but the "time for blogging is over" alarm just went off. Lunch and fiction call...