I’ve read a couple of good long-form pieces recently about teenage girls online – the whole nexus of growing up and working out who you are in a digital culture voraciously set to consume youth, fashion, cool, and of course sexuality.
Here they are:
This blogpost sets out a progression from cute kid – to girl consciously being cute – to teen girl playing with looking sexy before she’s quite aware of how it’s being read – to being picked up by other blogs (Hipster Runoff) for having a prominent ‘personal brand’ – to having a lofi documentary made about 24 hours in your hipster life.
along the way bebe talks about her life being home schooled, her isolation, her philosophy on life and the internet and her strange family situation. the best moments are when bebe talks candidly about her unusual life, which is focused on her internet presence, or makes comments that shows us she knows exactly how ridiculous it is. bebe says “I understand that life is bleak and you can either kill yourself or donate yourself to social commentary. I’m just a brand. I’m just shit. All of my content regarding my personality is available.”
obviously, society’s problem is not teenage girls. rather, what society views its problems to be often become fully embodied by the teenage girl. in other words, the teenage girl has become a mirror, in which we see everything we believe to be bad about our culture and ourselves — excess materiality, a desire for fame, vapidity and so on. as a young woman it can be close to impossible to avoid taking on these qualities when our society values our beauty over our intellect and the services we can provide rather than our contributions.
Significant also that the article’s author is artist Ann Hirsch, who’s done some pretty big performative projects about “internet cewebrity”, gaining 1.5 million YouTube views for her Scandalishious dancing girl vids.
Hirsh’s essay was spurred in part by this rather uncomfortable review by (who else?) Vice of the Bebe Zeva documentary.
Bebe Zeva’s photoblog is called Fated To Be Hated, which says it all.
2. Rolling Stone on Kiki Kannibal: The Girl Who Played With Fire
Another story from MySpace to Stickam video stream to online shop – and cyberbullying spilling over into the real world, and stalkers, and paedophiles – and a really nasty sub-Perez Hilton site called Stickydrama.com created by an adult man seeking to cash in on teen drama, internet celebrities, and all their sexy naked pics.
It’s particularly interesting to read Stickydrama.com as a compare-and-contrast with Fandom Wank. They initially seem to be similar meta-blogs reporting on activity within particular scenes’ social mediaspheres – and, subtitled Mock Mock Mockity-mock-mock – both would seem to be equally savage.
Except that Fandom Wank ends up working as a disciplinary mechanism for the fandom community, shooting down hostile and malicious behaviour and reaffirming social norms of decent behaviour. It’s basically the Internet Police, but with enough autocritique (and indeed postgrad social scientists onboard) to keep its own actions in check and largely clear of anything that can be called bullying.
Why Fandom Wank is constructive and most other scene blogs wildly destructive, I’m not sure. I’d moot it was something to do with fandom being highly female-dominated – but I went to an all-girls’ school, so bitch puh-lease! So maybe it’s something to do with fandom culture being anti-commercial – fanfiction, fansubs, shared vids, and somehow managing to build something creative strong enough to escape the vortex of capitalist consumption in a way that Scene Girls putting together new outfits somehow never quite does?
3. danah boyd on Publicity and the culture of celebritization
As information swirls all around us, we have begun to build an attention economy where the value of a piece of content is driven by how much attention it can attract and sustain. It’s all about eyeballs, especially when advertising is involved. Countless social media consultants are swarming around Web2.0, trying to help organizations increase their status and profitability in the attention economy. But the attention economy doesn’t just affect the monetization of web properties; it’s increasingly shaping how people interact with one another.
Teens’ desire for attention is not new. Teens have always looked for attention and validation from others – parents, peers, and high-status individuals. And just as many in business argue that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, there are plenty of teens who believe that there’s no such thing as bad attention. The notion of an “attention whore” predates the internet. Likewise, the notion that a child might “act out” is recognized as being a call for attention. And it’s important to highlight that the gendered aspects of these tropes are reinforced online.
So what happens when a teen who is predisposed to seeking attention gets access to the tools of the attention economy? Needless to say, we see both exciting and horrifying events play out. We see teens like Tavi Gevinson propel her interest in fashion into a full-blown career before the age of 14. And we see countless teens replicating the trainwreck activities of Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and other celebrities. When teens leverage social media to propel themselves into the spotlight, they fully (and with reckless abandon) engage in a set of practices that Terri Senft and Alice Marwick talk about as micro-celebrity. They work to manage their impressions, cultivate attention, and interact in ways that will increase their fame and social status.
Epigraph: Hipster Runoff on Where have all the Myspacers gone?
Whenever ur internet identity is so strongly linked to a social network’s brand
U run the risk of being buried alive
underneath the sands of internet time
in the digital graveyard