The New York Times features the lovely Tila Tequila, the model/TV star/hopeful singer made famous simply because she has almost 2,000,000 MySpace friends. Despite talking about the superstar and her rise to fame, the prestigious paper tells its readers to: “Dispose of the information. You won’t need it for long.”
Why? Because Tila is just today’s flavor-of-the-month. Who knows who it will be tomorrow? According to the article, there are a lot of teens who think it will be them. The article references a study that found that almost one in three American teenagers had the “honest expectation that they would one day be famous” and the vast majority (80%) considered themselves “truly important”. (The figure from the same study conducted in the 1950s was 12 percent.)
Or even if a teen doesn’t become famous, s/he still might be the impetus for a feature in The Times.
How often do we hear a teen say “Would you stop worrying about it? I’ m fine! Everything is OK?” Well, add social networking to that growing list of concerns that parents have, but teens simply shrug off. A new analysis conducted by Pew Internet and American Life found that while 1/3 of online teens have been contacted by a complete stranger, only 7% of online teens said they have been contacted by a stranger and that contact made them feel scared or uncomfortable. This is similar to the older data about sexual solicitation. Even when a teen is propositioned online — not just contacted — only 25% are distressed. Sure, that is 1 in 4, but a sexual proposition is a lot more invasive than a simple contact. And isn’t reaching out to meet new people one of the purposes of Social Networking?
More unsurprising findings (but, as a researcher myself, I appreciate the need to quantify and justify common sense with actual numbers): Girls are more likely to be scared and uncomfortable than boys when a stranger contacts her. Online teens who have social networking profiles are more likely to be contacted by strangers than teens who have no profiles.
It is often heard that TV warps the minds of its viewers. That it dumbs us down. We are urged by car bumpers everywhere to “Kill Your Television.”
But sometimes, TV can spread some facts. Even in an often over-the-top drama. Take this episode of Boston Public for example. Although now off the air, this show attempted to educate watchers about teen sexuality and abstinence only funding. Decent drama with accurate facts thrown in for good measure. Enjoy.
Welcome to the Naked Generation, proclaims a blog posting on CNet News written by Caroline McCarthy, a young Manhattan socialite who believes that the web can actually help one’s social life. The Naked Generation is that group of people who choose to use the web as a means of self-promotion. In her words: “The Naked Generation is something different: its figureheads are smart, business-savvy young adults, typically in emerging creative fields, who see the embarrassing antics of ‘MySpace kids’ and their emotional outpourings, and see a window of opportunity. They’re smart, and they know it, so they think they can use online exhibition as an advantage rather than an embarrassment.”
But even by her own admission, “think” is the operative word here. What are the repercussions of putting your life online? It’s simply too soon to tell. Some people have made a name for themselves by doing so, others have simply added more ignored material to the information super highway. For those who have made their mark, what impression does it leave? And for those who tried to get noticed but failed, how does it impact them?
It’s hard for me to imagine what, besides complete narcissism, is going on in the minds of these “meta-exhibitionists.” And there is evidence to back that up — research conducted earlier this year found that college students are more self-centered than ever before.
Is it time for Sesame Street and other educational television shows to send a message to kids that they aren’t so special after all?