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My Space Leaves No Space For A Generation
by Francesca Biller-Safran
TheSyndicatedNews columnist

Award-winning Investigative Journalist and Columnist with experience reporting breaking news, longer features and op-eds about race, politics, business, socioeconomics, arts and culture, ethics and parenting issues for newspapers, magazines, radio and websites. Awards include The Edward R. Murrow Award, two Society of Professional First Place Journalism Mark of Excellence Awards and two Golden Mike Awards for Excellence in Hard News and Best Series Reporting.

With the advent and popularity of My Space, kids are finding themselves with less actual space than ever, however virtual they think it may be.
As they spend hours uploading photos and recording every personal indiscretion they can think of, this savvy but naïve techno-baby generation will one day find they have lost the only real space that ever mattered . . . personal space without continual voyeurism.

As a society, we have almost by default decided “self-esteem” is the most important attribute for our children to have, far surpassing the ancient adage of having a good, solid character.

Today, children must first feel great about themselves and foremost, many psychologists and self-proclaimed experts preach, whether they are doing anything worthwhile or not.

Self esteem didn’t come simply by birthright, or as a result of filming a U-Tube video partying with friends, or designing websites devoted to the most important person in the universe- yourself. Rather, one gained self-respect and wisdom which might result in of self esteem, but then again, this was not the ultimate goal.

Today, by contrast, with thousands of teens spending time writing only about how they feel, as opposed to how they might contribute or even change the world they live in, we are raising a generation that is truly apathetic, which is nothing whatsoever to feel esteemed about.

Far from the 1960’s and 70’s when college students fought police in the streets against the war and for civil rights, and when young women burned their bras rather than receiving boob jobs as graduation presents, this generation is at a big loss, and we as parents, along with Madison Avenue are completely to blame.

After all, it’s much easier to let a kid live in their own room where you might not see them for hours, due to a computer, digital camera, IPOD and cell phone at hand that you have provided. There can hardly be time or inclination left over for embroiled discussions about anything if you’re never even in the same room together. The classic teenage words “You just don’t understand” aren’t even said, because nothing is.

Even more precarious, each time a teen shares with millions of fellow internet icons their most personal thoughts, including personal images that would shock the most progressive of parents; they are unaware of how this might play out in their future.

This is in part what makes teenagers so innocent and enviable on one hand, while the most dangerous species on the other. By nature, they have no sense of mortality. Rather, they are about everything that is exciting and miraculous for the moment-, which for them is infinite and immortal.

Therefore, when they boast into their cell phone cameras dramatizing every activity, including drunken escapades and endless verses of self-adulation, they are unaware one day they might just wish to hit the delete key. But to an adolescent today, the future is as un-virtual as it gets. And if you can’t send it through cyberspace, then it isn’t real.

Not all My Space websites and email conversing is scurrilous. Many are simply playful diaries of the young and the restless. And to be fair, some sites document seemingly-sincere reflections of how they see themselves in a world they either don’t understand or think they understand too well..

On the dark side, there are sites and videos that the word “exhibitionism” can’t begin to describe. Blatant personal dramas are displayed with horrific stories that as a viewer you can only hope are fictional. Largely, narratives are not about any protest against society, but simply ongoing hate and love letters to ones’ self.

By nature, teens want to be popular and instant gratification and fame are constantly fleeting. Embarrassing photos and quotes will be recorded not just in a yearbook, but by anyone including adults with far from altruistic tendencies, who are out there in droves. Whatever is downloaded can be uploaded and can be on record forever.

What will happen when this generation hits their 30’s and even their 20’s? Will they feel humiliated or proud? Will there be an epidemic of lawsuits against My Space and YouTube creators when they become parents and claim to have been naive participants- demanding all past histrionics be deleted from the face of Cyberspace?

Most likely, if recent history repeats itself, there will be lawsuits claiming no responsibility, which ironically is what the web largely symbolizes. It is a virtual life more real for the user than the one often lived, and yet everything can be anonymous with no one to answer to and no one to blame, and yet there will a lot of blaming yet to come.

My Space is not about anyone’s space at all, but rather about taking up the most crucial and valuable space of a generation. It gives viable minds the winking nod that’s its okay for them to take up as much space as they want to about nothing at all, and takes space away that could be given to productive debate and tangible action.

The generation of baby boomers and parents a bit younger, such as I, who watched a war unfold, unravel and become a nightmare may now be raising a generation of kids who won’t know or care what is going on in the world. After all, if you are the universe and everything revolves around you, why should it matter whether the rest of the world is embroiled in any war?

This is not to say self-expression is unimportant, or that each generation has a swear-bound duty to forge its own path and to upset the generation before. But a generation suckled on the need to be constantly seen and heard leaves a generation that is heard and seen but doesn’t listen much.

Published: Nov 20,2008 22:02
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