Sunday, June 11, 2006

MySpace Generation


“When You Were Sweet Sixteen” was written in 1898 and by the 1940s it had become one of America’s favorite sentimental ballads. Its opening lines are “I love you as I never loved before, / When first I met you on the village green.” A hundred years ago, sixteen stood for innocence and sweetness, at least in popular culture. Back then it was the village green where you met your virginal sixteen-year-old sweetie; now it is the mall or, more recently, where you can encounter uninhibited fourteen-to-sixteen-old babes who may be virgins but only because they practice safe sex by giving blowjobs. Or so they imply. Cool!

Now Hillary Duff sings in “Sweet Sixteen”:

Today I'm gonna ride away
And feel the sun throughout my hair
Finally free to be who I wanna be
Who that is I don't really care.

And Billy Idol sings:

I'll do anything
For my sweet sixteen,
And I'll do anything
For little run away child

Sixteen ain’t as sweet as it once was, and probably never was anyway. With Madonna and Britney Spears as role models, and their mindlessly erotic music everywhere, what chance does a prepubescent teen have of dancing to the beat of a different drummer? What chance does she have of having a birthday party without getting waylaid by the media? Whether you are sweet or not, if you are about to turn sixteen, MTV’s My Super Sweet 16 show wants to know

We are looking for the most OVER THE TOP, OUTRAGEOUS and EXCLUSIVE parties ever! My Super Sweet 16 documents all the planning, primping and partying that goes into pulling off the ultimate birthday bash and if your party is going to be AMAZING (even without MTV), then we want to hear from you!

Portsmouth was exposed to the unsweetness of truth last week when it was revealed the mayor’s sixteen-year-old daughter had been exposing herself, figuratively speaking, on her blog. A vocal local critic of the mayor, who exposed the mayor’s daughter exposing herself as an aspiring Lolita, was denounced by anonymous chatroomers for invading the teenager’s private space – private along with 80 million other MySpacers and potentially billions of others. How dare she peek! Cheez! Is nothing sacred? Whose business is it if the mayor’s sixteen-year-old daughter wants to post the following weltschmertz reflections on her blog, along with Lolita pics of herself, for anyone in cyberspace to see?

What a loser I am... home blogging on a Saturday night. I'm 16, could be out doing anything, but I'm here. I've been here three weekends in a row. Still not sure if I like this whole anti-social thing or not. I left my house for like, 3.5 hours today.. watched the local bands strum their shit. Then I crawled back into my hole.
I'm tossing around Blink 182 and Britney Spears, odd mixture.. but it makes me happy. Well, listening to Blink 182 is my equivalent of watching kittens drown or something. It's like instant depression. But I love their songs, so I can't help but listen.
It'd be nice... to have a blowjob. I mean, it'd be nice to have something interesting to say. I could definitely do some venting.. trash all the people getting on my nerves, but I'll keep those thoughts safely in my brain. I pretty much keep everything tucked away in my brain these days, so my blog is pretty useless. Maybe that's why I haven't posted in like a month. It's hard to blog when you're not willing to share any thoughts. . . .

There is a long entry on self-mutilation, or what I’ve heard a college student who indulges in this disturbing practice refer to as “cutting.” The mayor’s daughter says she has so many scars that “Soon I'll just be one big scar.” Then she adds, “The fact that I've got not-so-pretty scars all over doesn't bother me. It[‘s] that the physical scars are just a reminder of the emotional scars. Like an emotional scar you can see.” Is this only a game or a desperate cry for help? “Maybe I should get a therapist,” she says. Like a photo that shows her lying down between the rails of a track, we want to believe the self-mutilation does not point to deeper self-destructive urges. If her parents were not aware of the extent of her “cutting,” and had not been reading her blog, some good might come from the publicizing of it, however painful it being made public might be. If she is crying out for help, maybe those cries can be heard better, and a more serious crisis averted.

Or even if things are not critical, there is the future to consider, and the career goals she might have. The New York Times reports that MySpace is one of the websites recruiters check to see if job applicants have posted any risqué photos or compromising or provocative blog entries about sexual activities or drug use. Even if one of the more than 80 million MySpacers is only attempting to appear cool or clownish, or merely imitating his or her peers, a potential employer would rather not take risks on somebody who is trying “to show how funny, cool, or outrageous they are” (6-11-06). It is likely a recruiter would find the following outburst by the mayor's daughter outrageous but not very funny or cool: "Fuck you. I hate you. 'Suck' my dick. And (die)."

That the mayor's daughter provided her name and the city in Ohio her father was mayor of is all a predator would need to track her down, as has been pointed out. And it is not just predators who might be tracking her. Government agencies and data miners might too. “I am continually shocked and appalled at the details people voluntarily post online about themselves," a Silicon Valley security officer warned. “He is far from alone in noticing that fast-growing social networking websites such as MySpace and Friendster are a snoop's dream,” says a report in the New Scientist (6-9-06). Sites like MySpace usually ask members to provide information about their blogger friends. “People often list other facets of their personality including political, sexual, entertainment, media and sporting preferences too. Some go much further, and a few have lost their jobs by publicly describing drinking and drug-taking exploits.” In an earlier blog, I reported on a promiscuous Washington secretary who blogged her sexual diary, thinking she could confine it to a few of her friends. She lost her job when her blog got circulated, but she got a contract for a book about her sexploits.

Britney Spears: MySpace madonna

Allowances must be made for the mayor's daughter. How do you think you would feel if you had spent the first sixteen years of your life growing up in one of the most corrupt and crime-ridden cities in Ohio, within a culture of prostitution? And how would you feel if your father, perhaps absent too often, was part of the political corruption? How would you feel if you were part of the MySpace virtual orphan generation?

The mayor’s daughter looks bright enough to survive it, a lot brighter than Britney Spears, and one day she may look back on it as a very awkward stage she had to go through. And maybe the mayor will stop exploiting her in photo ops and will stop criticizing other people for being irresponsible parents. How does that saying go? “People who live in stoned houses . . .” No, that’s not it. How about “Sixteen’s not all it’s cracked up to be, especially for the MySpace generation.” Yes, let’s settle for that, even if it’s not short and not sweet.