Friday, April 25, 2008

Six Degrees of Separation

My 12-year-old niece has a MySpace that is somewhat typical of her age group. From what I can see, she says she’s older than she is so she can even have a MySpace, her about me reads like a text message ("and no1 else controls me...i don't blame any1 4 something stupid that i did... i take responsibility 4 my own actions") and her only blog entry is titled "oh life sucks!".

She’s atypical in one sense that I’ve complimented her mother on: she has no clear pictures of herself on her page. I recognize her in a few of the tiny pictures that she has up (because I’ve known her since she was born), but these would not be pervert fodder.

Looking at her friend’s pages I saw a much more typical teen MySpace page – a bright flashy background, dozens of pictures of themselves and their friends, and comments about how much they "luv" one another. For the majority of her immediate friends, their profiles were locked, so I couldn’t see much though. Encouraging, right?

Then I started looking at her friends’ friends, I was confused – 14 year olds with a Playboy background, flirty-looking photographs, and sometimes comments that made me blush.

A third step away from my niece blew me away. I found a 16 year old girl with the main picture of herself a full body shot of her in a bra & underwear with the main tagline "CoMe ON iN lIck Me LiKe A LoLlY PoP!!" This girl’s profile wasn’t pirvate so I was able to look at the photographs on her page. She had poses of herself that I wouldn’t let a professional photographer catch me in. Next to her "Me" album, she had a "my famz" album with over a dozen pictures of her toddler cousins. Talk about a juxtaposition.

MySpace pages are like a teenager's messy bedroom. It’s a place where they can freely (for the most part) express who they are – or who they’d like to be, but what does it mean for them when they leave their bedroom door open to strangers?

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