I told you to clean your room!

Taking risky opportunities in youthful content: teenagers’ use of social networking sites for intimacy, privacy and self-expression from New Media & Society (2008 SAGE Publications) has finally “scientifically” addressed my 4-year-old statement; “MySpaces are the virtual dirty bedroom of today’s online teenagers.”

Interviews of 16 teenagers (high school sophomore, juniors & seniors) conducted resulted in clarifications like “I think layouts really show like who you are. So look at the rainbow in that. I think that would make you sound very, like bubbly … I like to have different ones … it’s different likes, different fashion, different feelings on that day.” Like changing outfits, changing MySpace backgrounds shows a sense of who the owner may be; however teenagers are aware that profiles can be “just a front.”

Interviews brought about an interesting discussion regarding the social differences between MySpace and Facebook. The elaborate layouts available on MySpace seem to be geared towards a younger crowd, while the older social networkers are drawn to the clean, white, everyone-has-the-same layout of Facebook. “This isn’t to show off my personality. I’m not trying to say, oh, I love purple or I love hearts … It’s more just like talking to three friends and, seeing as my friends know me, there’s no real need for me to advertise my personality.”

Another interesting point Livingstone brings up is that idea that younger teens use their MySpace pages to create an elaborate identity with hundreds, sometimes even thousands of friends and classmates while older teens are using their pages to make authentic friendships and solid relationships. “Adult onlookers have been puzzled by youthful peer practices,” states Sonia Livingstone (author of the article Dr. Kris sent me), and I’d love to sit down and talk with her, because I’m starting to be puzzled by these “youthful peer practices.” However, this isn’t a new phenomenon.

My Grandpa Lloyd couldn’t (and still doesn’t) understand why my dad had to have “The Long Hair.” (“Girls wear rubber bands in their hair! Why do you want to go out with hair like that?”) My Dad doesn’t get why I added seven extra earring holes to my body. (“If God had meant for you to have a ring in your nose, don’t you think you’d have been born that way?”) I don’t understand how teenagers can share so much information on their hot pink & green, flashing hearts & flowers MySpace page. Call me an old lady, but I’d be happier if teens kept more of their personal information private and cleaned up those dirty bedrooms!

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