In the first season of the television series “New Girl,” the main character, Jessica Day, finds herself the butt of a YouTube joke. This occurs specifically in the 14th episode, entitled, “Bully.” The story line is this: Jess Day is an elementary school teacher who believes in the power of song as a teaching technique. One day, a young boy requests to stay behind and eat lunch in the classroom alone; Jess is concerned, and so he confides in her that he is being made fun of—the other kids in the cafeteria have started playing a game titled “Coin Slot,” which consists of putting pennies in this poor child’s butt crack. When the class returns from lunch, Jess and the troubled student stand in front of the class while she sings about why bullying should stop. Meanwhile, all of the students watching this phenomenon all have out their cell phones, video recording the show. Later that evening, her roommate shows her a YouTube video in which she is starring. Basically, Jess Day’s head has been put onto a sparrow’s body and the song is playing in the background. During the song, a bird continuously poops on her head. Although she sang the song only a couple hours before this, the video already has over 1000 views. The person who has posted this video is a girl in Jess’s class.
(Also in the same episode, a man in his late twenties takes a photo of his genitals and sends it to his partner, whom he asks later, “Did you receive my junk mail?” Although this man is not considered “youth,” it is interesting to note that even though this sexting scene is not one of the most important in the episode, it is still included.)
This incident is framed in a way that most social media site users are familiar with, although they may never have been the butt of a SNS joke.
The three readings which I will compare the “New Girl” YouTube incident I’ve found to are: “Why Youth Heart Social Network Sites: The Role of the Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life” by danah boyd, “Prevalence and Characteristics of Youth Sexting: A National Study” by Kimberly J. Mitchell, PhD, David Finkelhor, PhD, Lisa M. Jones, PhD, and Janis Wolak, JD, and ‘‘ ‘As soon as you get on Bebo you just go mad’: young consumers and the discursive construction of teenagers online” by Rebekah Willett.
First, “Why Youth Heart Social Network Sites: The Role of the Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life” by danah boyd explores the idea that youths are exploring another public when they are exposing themselves and their works on social media sites. She goes on to say that although their access to their sites is regularly restricted due to uneasy feelings stemming from adults (parents, teachers, etc.), it is the older population’s responsibility to learn from what the youth is experiencing on social media sites in order to help them navigate these sites more intelligently and effectively. Coming back to “New Girl,” Jess Day’s solution is to watch the video through, read the comments, and get a feel for why this video was posted. In class the next day, Jess Day calls up the girl responsible for posting the YouTube video to the front of the classroom and has the girl sing a duet with her in front of the entire class. She states, before the song begins, “Camera phones are encouraged!” This video also gets posted on YouTube for the world to see.
“Prevalence and Characteristics of Youth Sexting: A National Study” by Kimberly J. Mitchell, PhD, David Finkelhor, PhD, Lisa M. Jones, PhD, and Janis Wolak, JD confirms that sexting is not the norm when it comes to youth use of social media. However, as “New Girl” suggests, social media can be (and has been) used for other degrading tasks, such as bullying. Its layout is similar to a pamphlet, and it’s use of tables and diagrams really enhance the readers’ understandings of the argument; I feel that it’s just as accessible and “user-friendly” as the scene portraying the YouTube bullying.
Finally, the article, ‘‘ ‘As soon as you get on Bebo you just go mad’: young consumers and the discursive construction of teenagers online” by Rebekah Willett, considers that social media a way of creating a youth’s identity through reaching out to a variety of communities and audiences. This also rings true for the “New Girl” video as the girl who posted the video is solidifying her role and identity as a bully through reaching out to an almost infinite and ever expanding audience.