Sunday, April 13, 2008

Discussion on Boyd and Jenkins

While reading Boyd’s article “Why Youth Social Network Sites…” I found myself laughing at the discussion of “Top 8 Friends”, people staying up until all hours of the night stalking others’ profiles, and “Myspace whores”. I can clearly remember being in high school and seeing girls fighting because they were moved from the “top friend” to the “2nd top friend” and I also remember students falling asleep in class and later admitting the countless hours they spent perusing fellow classmates’ profiles. Although it has died down a lot in the last few years, Myspace was such a huge part of the social scene in high school. Boyd’s approach to defining all of the teenager terms for those who are unfamiliar with Myspace, while depicting the teens that she quoted in her article as important members of this growing online society, successfully attracts a wide range of readers. I was able to relate to the article because I am able to identify with the participatory culture of affiliations, as Jenkins discusses in his article, “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture.” However, until reading Boyd’s and Jenkins’ articles, I never really considered myself a “media creator”. To me, Myspace and Facebook, the two social networks that I belong to, were just basic pages of information that were filled out upon completing membership. Although I wrote the responses, and chose the pictures that I wanted to have on my profiles, I followed the same format as everyone else, and answered the questions that were created by “Tom” and the Facebook equivalent.
Participation is an obvious form of communication, because you aren’t a true “Myspacer” unless you comment on other’s profiles and receive comments in return. Besides Myspace potentially increasing your social status among your peers, I feel like it was really useful for keeping in contact with others that you didn’t see on a regular basis. Myspace was the form of communication that kept me in connection with friends from elementary schools, friends from summer camps or sport camps that didn’t attend the same schools as me, and friends I met through others. Sending a comment that said “Hey how are you?” was a lot more convenient than having to call the person and have a potentially unending conversation. The same comment also made the receiver feel that you still care, even if it is a little less personal.
At the time that I used Myspace, I never really considered it to be a deliberate opposition to adult publics, as Boyd discusses. However, looking back at my high school Myspace days, I guess it is a little rebellious. My parents didn’t even know I had a Myspace or what it was until it started losing popularity to Facebook. Myspace was a secret place that I could talk to boys (which was completely “inappropriate” in my house), discuss the horrible teachers at my school with my fellow classmates, and even vent to friends about my parents (which was easier than taking the risk of getting caught venting over the phone). When I read about the parents who went on Myspace to police their daughters’ profiles, I wasn’t shocked, but it just reminded me of how over-zealous parents can be. I realize there are predators on the internet, and that parents are just trying to protect their kids, but Myspace, along with other online communites such as AIM, are ways that teens have some sort of outlet without actually leaving the confines of home.
The last thing I want to discuss regarding the articles, was Boyd’s paragraph on America’s “peculiar relationship to teenagers” (page 19). I completely agree with her, in that society is so contradictory in the way teens are looked at and what they are asked to do. Because of this constant contradiction, I think it can be (and was) very frustrating as a teenager. You never seem to know what to do, how to please the parents, and how others will perceive you on any particular day. Teenagers are automatically put in an awkward place in society, and no matter what you look like or how you act, the societal stereotypes about teenagers seem to follow you wherever you go. My biggest frustration as a teen was walking into stores at the mall to shop around and getting rude looks from the clerks. They often asked me what I needed and told me that I probably “couldn’t afford” or “wouldn’t be interested” in anything from their store. I actually feel bad for teenagers, so I totally support the concept of online networks.

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