“…If the property that grounded the self, in Romanticism, was sincerity, and in modernism it was authenticity, then in postmodernism it is visibility,” (William Deresiewicz). People today, especially young people are desperate to be noticed, to be famous. The advent of user-generated content sites has produced a generation of young people that are enamored by the idea of being popular, not just with the people they know, but especially with people they have never met. They create videos and post them on YouTube and rate their popularity based on views. They document their every moment of life via Twitter and Facebook and their feelings of validation are measured in the form of “Like” and the amount of friends they have.
The narcissism of today’s youth definitely exceeds that of previous generations. They take pictures of themselves and post them online seeking affirmation. However, according to the PBS Frontline Documentary, Growing Up Online, adolescents do not realize the longevity of things they post on the Internet. Because everything they access is instantaneous, they do not see the lasting effects of the things they do online. There is no longer any anonymity for young people. There is nothing they consider private or sacred. They are completely comfortable putting every bit of who they are online, and even more so, who they are not.
According to Mary Chayko in her book, Portable Communities, people are always making and remaking themselves online. People can remake themselves and enhance the parts of themselves they do not like. If you are shy and socially awkward in real life, you can remake your image into an outgoing model by posting provocative pictures of yourself, as is the case with Autumn Edows. Check out a video of her story on PBS http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/relationships/identity/the-secret-online-life-of-autumn-edows.html.
I believe that as more of our lives migrate into portable communities, we need to implement programs to teach young people that the consequences for their actions online are irreversible. Every word they type, every post them make, every bit of content they share with the world should be handled with discretion, temperance and wisdom.