When I went home for Spring Break my 17 year old sister (who is significantly more of a partier than I was in High School), told me we had to go see Project X. I’d recently had the movie spoiled for me at an NYC comedy show, and even before that I knew I would really rather see The Lorax. Either way I never saw the movie, and I don’t think my sister has. Apparently though, many young adults did see the movie about the crazy antics of teens on a quest to throw the greatest party ever, which has lead to some copy cat parties in which social media plays a role. Recently, police in Westchester County followed teens on social media to stop one such party, and a resulting article capitalizes on many concepts we discussed in class and in our readings, while also giving in to the larger discourse of fear about social media that the American Press uses. As a result this article pits parents and teens against each other in an us vs. them discourse much like we have seen in discussion about both privacy and sexting.
The article discusses the ways in which the Ossining Police Department used social media to stop an underage party recently, which they believe was inspired by Project X. The Police Department was tipped off about the party by a concerned parent, and they where then able to find invites and information about the festivities that had been sent out via e-mail, Twitter and Facebook. The police arrived on the scene of the party and stopped it from happening with their presence. No one was arrested and no charges were filed however, because the party never actually got under way.
While this story is not directly related to the sexting or privacy discussions we’ve been having in class and have seen play out in our readings, it does have some similarity to the larger topics we’ve discussed. In danah boyd‘s article “Why Youth Heart Social Network Sites” the author spends some time talking about the idea of publics and the role they play in Social Media. While boyd argues that these sites are ways for teens to negotiate publics, this article also proves that it is a way for adults to navigate these publics. As a police man states in the article, his department “actively participate(s) in Facebook and Twitter and so, by default, we will be notified of these types of occurrences.” Here he is confirming the idea that teens communicate with their peers on social media, while also calling attention to the fact thay this can be so dangerous it requires police intervention. This idea of necessary legal intervention plays into the fear dynamic in much the same way the sexting video we watched in class does. It promotes the idea that parents, along with the law, need to protect their kids from the dangers of digital technology, an idea that has been perpetuated because of the varying definitions of privacy held by the different generations.
It’s very easy to see these different definitions of privacy boyd and her co-worker Alice Marwick discuss in their paper “Social Steganography: Privacy in Networked Publics” in play here, but of interesting note is the fact that the teens point of view never gets discussed. The whole article reads as a cautionary tale to parents about the dangerous possibilities of social media, all without discussing the benefits teens have in socializing online. This fear is played into when the article warns that “the volume of people that can be notified in a second changes the whole dynamic (of partying). Social networking isn’t just friends. It’s whoever is on the list.” This type of fear about the way that social media and digital technologies are changing our kids is reminiscent of the discourse on sexting, as discussed in articles both Amy Hassinoff and Kimberly Mitchell and her team.
I believe that the discourse of fear of social media the article presents is the most important aspect of the story. Beyond the cops breaking up the party, beyond the police force reassuring parents they are protecting their children, implying that the parents are unable to do so alone, the article paints social media as a one dimensional entity that you need to monitor your child’s use on, similar to the way Facebook is portrayed in the commercial for Eye Guardian we viewed in class. By the time you reach the end of the article and Joanne Goodman, the director of a New York city based drug prevention program says “we strongly believe that parents are the No. 1 influence in their kids’ lives”, the assertion seems hollow, because no matter how much you monitor your child’s social network use, the police will still have to break up the illegal ragers they throw which are inspired by movies and planned on Twitter, Facebook and beyond.