Friday, February 1, 2013

Random Thoughts: Social Media/Generational Drift

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...


  1. I think it's an interesting question. Certainly kids these days are cautioned about what they post on Facebook and other sites. I think many of them don't realize, or don't care about what they post though. The same "indestructibility" that led us to do crazy shit as teenagers, gives you invincibility to your posts as well.

    And on the Internet, everything is forever. Massive systems index, meta-tag and otherwise sift and sort every bit and byte posted. Including Categories, this blog post, and my response to it. Cross-referential existence is impossible to escape, except by a life off the grid. You have to decide on the trade-offs of the one for the other and decide which path you take.

    For me, I have twice considered giving up on Facebook completely. Deleting the profile, taking my data and going home. But many friends and family chimed in that the community would be diminished without me, and that they enjoyed this one great means to keep up with my thoughts and have me in their lives.

    And in turn, I like the connectedness I get from being there too, and playing Categories - that really is reminiscent of the Daily Grind afternoons, when we would all meet up in the early evening; some of us getting off work, and you waking up to do the night at the Revolution. In other circles, it has the same effect, from high school through to the present day.

    We don't really go out much, so we don't have a wide circle of new friends. But I'm OK with that. The friends I have (like you) have been in my life through many things and I have chosen wisely. I'd rather keep what I have than start anew at this point.

    Damn kids, get off my lawn! *shakes fist*

  2. I would dearly hope that future employers would take age into account. I've often said that I shouldn't be held responsible for any of the dumb crap I did before I was 18. And I once set fire to a homework assignment on school grounds.

    Of course, I didn't deal with the potential major consequences of that act (attempted arson charges were discussed between my mother and the vice-principal; I wound up in in-school suspension). And it wasn't filmed. But it was still stupid.

    There is a good amount of pre-video Internet detritus of my college life out there, from back when Usenet was a thing. Big huge chunks of it I would love to expunge completely, especially September 1993-May 1994. Nobody's asked me about it. If someone did, my answer would be something along the lines of "It was twenty [!] years ago, and I was a colossal fuckup back then. Allow me to introduce you to my body of work since."

    The toughest part is that guy who danced on tables his senior Spring Break trying to find that first job two months later. But I like to think that the stupidity of youth can be overcome, and when there are thousands out there with just-as-stupid videos of themselves, forgiven to an extent.


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