Saturday, November 6, 2010

Growing Pains

I came across this article about "growing up on Facebook" and the impact it has had on kids in middle school and high school, especially girls, the other day and wanted to share it with everyone. I think it's interesting partially because I know that I, for one, went through middle school and most of high school without any form of social media. It's kind of crazy to think that we are the last generation that grew up (or at least experienced the social Mount Everests of middle school and high school) without an ever-changing, ever-updatable online record of ourselves.

Another reason I found the article interesting was in light of the Mulvey reading we did about the male gaze. The impact Facebook has had on young girls has been severe--a recent study of 1,000 girls ages 14-17 conducted by the Girl Scouts of America showed that 68% of girls had been bullied or gossiped about on a social network. Furthermore, the online personas that middle schoolers and high schoolers are presenting on networks like Facebook often have a large disconnect between their real personalities and their "cool, sexy" online personalities.

What brings me to Mulvey is this--I think that the profiles girls are posting these days to appear more cool, interesting, and sexy present a similarity to the female characters of Hollywood in the 1950's and 1960's which Mulvey describes as having a "to-be-looked-at-ness." The whole point of social media like Facebook is to be gazed at, adored, venerated--or bullied, gossiped about, and ultimately, ostracized. I find it interesting that girls are placing themselves in this position knowingly and in direct contrast to their male counterparts, who are less likely to lie about themselves on Facebook. Ultimately, it provides a somewhat dismal outlook for the future of our young girls today, as it will soon prove impossible for them to escape their online personas, and the division between one's online self and real self can often prove to be too much to bear, in the case of young girls who have committed suicide in recent years over online bullying.

Here is the link to the article:


  1. The page isn't loading for me, but just based on what you've written in this post, I have to agree that all these new forms of social media definitely encourage young people to be cruel to each other, and also to shape (construct?) their online identities in such a way that makes them seem cool.

    Just off the top of my head, I can think of several instances where people used the website Formspring for bullying. Formspring allows you to to set up an account where people can ask you questions or leave comments with the option to do so anonymously. Obviously this lead to an influx of people leaving insulting comments on people's Formspring pages.

    I also know that with social media sites like Facebook and Myspace, there is the risk of putting things online that you might regret later. Pictures can be especially incriminating if you get "tagged" in something that you might not want your parents or your future employers to see.

    Social media definitely has the potential to make life a lot harder and more complicated, but it seems like more of these sites of varying kinds keep being developed, and the people who use them make them essential to their daily lives.

  2. I also think Foucault is relevant here in terms of the disciplinary gaze--the ways in which prospective employers, teachers, and other "powerful" people can always scrutinize our online presences.

  3. Maybe this also connects to the Panopticon we discussed today in class? Facebook and other social media outlets create a Panopticon for the world to see exactly what type of person we are, what we are doing, etc. Yet, unlike the prison, we are usually willing participants of Panopticon oversight.

    However, the "power" of employers, etc. to see our images/representations can influence our decisions regarding what we choose to post on these outlets. Just as the prisoners worried about being seen doing something wrong, we are apprehensive about what pictures and comments are present on our profiles when it comes to applying for careers and graduate schools.