In today’s discussions about privacy, “youth don’t care about privacy” is an irritating but popular myth. Embedded in this rhetoric is the belief that youth are reckless risk-takers who don’t care about the consequences of their actions. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
(This was written for the Digital Media and Learning Project.)
Questions-and-answers have played a central role in digital bonding since the early days of Usenet. Teenagers have consistently co-opted quizzes and surveys and personality tests to talk about themselves with those around them. They’ve hosted guest books and posted bulletins to create spaces for questions and answers. But when teens started adopting Formspring.me this winter, a darker side of this practice emerged. While teens have always asked each other crass and mean-spirited questions, this has become so pervasive on Formspring so as to define what participation there means. More startlingly, teens are answering self-humiliating questions and posting their answers to a publicly visible page that is commonly associated with their real name. Why? What’s going on?
When I first got online in high school, I found email chain messages entertaining. I fondly remember receiving surveys about my friends’ favorite movies, most embarrassing moments, and food peculiarities. The task was to erase the content written by my friend, fill in my own content, send it to my friend and forward it to 10 more friends. With every new genre of social media, surveys and quizzes keep coming back as popular ways to get to know the people around you. Some of the basics have gotten baked into the average profile, especially favorites that can help guide behavioral marketing.