It’s not unusual for adults to perceive teens as irresponsible, naïve, and unaware of their own best interests because, after all, they themselves were teens not so long ago. It is also common for adults, and authority figures in particular, to blame social media for careless teenage behavior perhaps because they’d rather blame a third party than their own lack of parenting or guidance which may be the key causes of these actions in the first place. Case and point, the article I found, “Police use social media, avert ‘Project X’ teen alcohol party in Ossining” about “Project X” inspired parties and the police’s effort to battle these ragers using social media (the accused party catalyst). ‘Project X’ is a recently released movie about high school students who throw a house party which turns into utter mayhem (including a SWAT team, drugs and alcohol, etc.) after word spreads. The movie encompasses every out-of-town parent’s worst nightmare, but is clearly a wild exaggeration of what happens (and what has been happening for decades) when kids throw a house party.
This article not only instills unnecessary fears in the hearts and minds of parents, but also sets up social media as the ultimate source of irresponsible chaos. “The use of social media makes these things take on a life of their own,” Ossining police Lt. Michael McElroy is quoted as saying; he continues to characterize the monster that is social media saying, “The volume of people that can be notified in a second changes the whole dynamic. Social networking isn’t just friends. It’s whoever’s on the list.” Although I’m sure social media makes it easier to send out party invites, huge parties such as the one in ‘Project X’ have been occurring since the teenage years of our parents, way before social media ever existed. If sites such as Facebook or Twitter didn’t exist teens would find other ways to spread the word (irresponsible teens are very resourceful after all…gasp!).
One of my favorite parts of the article was when it mentions flash mobs, as if it were actually some kind of mafia associated evil, “In Peekskill, Lt. Eric Johansen said he was not privy yet to these ‘Project X’-like parties but was familiar with flash mobs. A flash mob is when a specific event is advertised on social media to see how many people will show up.” I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word ‘flash mob’ the only thing that comes to mind is a group of hundreds of people doing some ridiculous choreographed dance in the middle of Grand Central Station, not some type of mutinous organization of the masses.
The hyper-dramatized discourse surrounding social media in this article reminds me greatly of the hyper-sexualization of the “sexting epidemic” we have been discussing in class. The sexting PSA video we watched which highlighted the stereotype of naïve teens correlates to the characterization of naïve teens who, according to Lt. McElroy, “are influenced by things they see and hear.” I will not argue that kids and teens are not influenced by things they are exposed to, but so are adults. Rebeka Willet’s points out the “third person affect” in her article “As soon as you get on Bebo you just go mad’’: young consumers and the discursive construction of teenagers online.” This affect occurs when a person, or group of people, has the idea that things (such as social media) will affect others but will not affect themselves. In our media saturated society it is virtually impossible to go about life unaffected or uninfluenced by things we see. People, however,have minds of their own (teens included) and maturation enough to distinguish the difference between what is right and wrong and so putting the blame entirely on social media is unfair and unrealistic.
Another correlation between this article and our readings was the concept of fighting fire with fire, or in this case, fighting social media with social media. Just as Boyd and Marwick point out parents’ monitoring of their children’s online activity as a way of protecting them and keeping tabs on them in their article, “Social Steganography: Privacy in Networked Publics” the police in this article warn, in a way, teenagers of their own social media savvy, “We actively participate in Facebook and Twitter and so, by default, we will be notified of these types of occurrences,” states Lt. McElroy. It can be argued that this hyper-monitoring of social media sites is just a way to protect teens from dangerous activities, but can also be just another way of taking back the power which they have lost in the realm of social media, in which age is much less of a barrier than it is in the physical world.