Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Teacher, Author

On Blogging and Generation Selfie

My friend Andrew, 16,  wrote this post about his own generation, which he calls Generation Selfie. I love the way that he talks about the pressure to maintain different personas. Read what Andrew has to say and let me know your thoughts.

First, a history of blogs. The word “blog” comes from the Old German word “bloigghen”, a crude word used in the 11th century to describe someone who desperately needed to shut up. Eventually the English wound up with the word “blogg”, which was a common name for the crappiest of the crappy writers of the day. By the time printed news had found its way into most European towns, most newspapers featured “blogger” sections. Here, aspiring writers could pay to get their work out there, but it was widely understood that blog writers were rubbish. When the Internet Age rolled around, the word had largely fallen out of common English vocabulary, but managed to catch on as a name for amateur Internet writers. Public websites sprang up, allowing anyone to write whatever he or she wanted, and voila! the modern blog was born. Blogs had simplicity and ease of access enough to become popular, but lacked the interaction and connection features of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. So the ‘blogosphere’ became a niche for those who thought they had something meaningful to say, while simultaneously making those people believe anyone on the World Wide Web cared at all. Today, teens are redeeming blogging sites such as this one with creative, politically aware memes and profound quotes superimposed on professional photos of trendily-dressed models staring longingly into city landscapes or romantic shots of boys in snapbacks holding hands with blonde girls in oversized tshirts and yoga pants. Yes, the blogging culture is on the rise, and it’s all thanks to Generation Selfie.

*sarcasm ends here*

“Generation Selfie” is a term that, as far as I know, was coined by my hero, Ezra Koenig, on Twitter. Generation Selfie is comprised of those born between 1996 and 2012, meaning that my girlfriend and I suffer a generational gap (even though I bet a generous sociologist could give her or me some leeway). The online culture that has developed over the last several years is full of interesting quirks and phenomena that puzzle the older generations, yet don’t make my generation so much as flinch. GS kids are the first people whose grandchildren will forever have a digital window into their grandparents’ lives as teens. No GS kid has ever lived in a world without the Internet, and only the oldest 20-30% remember a time before smartphones. We’re the first ones affected by Virtual Life Syndrome. In other words, it’s incredibly easy to slip completely unintentionally into an upside-down mentality that affects how we act and manipulate our own images. We make sure our online lives are well-managed and presentable, so that if we meet new friends, they’ll have a pleasant opinion of us right off the bat. We’ve even developed words and phrases that protect our online egos with clouds of passive-aggressiveness.

For example, the word “ratchet” emerged from hip hop culture into the mainstream in the ’00s and became synonymous with ghetto, low-class, etc. But over the course of the last few years, “ratchet” has come to mean “in sweatshirts and shorts and without makeup or hair preparation whatsoever” or, perhaps more accurately, “not putting any effort into one’s appearance in general”. This may seem insulting or self-deprecating, but is in fact rather coy. Feeling insecure about how your selfie’s looking? Afraid someone will secretly judge you? Don’t worry! Just slap a #RATCHET (read: hash-tag-ratch-et) on that Instagram caption and then you’ll have been the first one to say it. By pointing out the ratchetivity of a picture, you’re basically saying, “Look, guys. I know I don’t look my best. I’m really not trying. If I was, I’d look way different than this. So don’t associate your feelings of this picture with your feelings of me. Unless you think I look cute. Then leave a compliment in the comments.”

This duality of having two social lives — one online and one outside — makes dating and relationships hard. The illusion, however, is that this duality actually makes it EASIER! Why hang out when you could FaceTime? Why FaceTime when you lovebirds could text? Why text when you could subtweet? Why subtweet when you could stalk someone’s profile? Why even pursue that lovely girl at all when you could pine and sigh and scroll through her Facebook albums? Sure, online and long-distance relationships can be AWESOME, and technology allows them to happen. That’s not even what I’m talking about. I’m talking about taking one’s physical romantic world into the digital one. Girls can be impossible to read in person, let alone online.

Our generation, like the last three or four have, values individuality. We reward and strive for uniqueness, and idolize those who represent it. But there are certain types of uniqueness to which we turn a cold shoulder. Intellectualism is frowned upon. Reading is nerdy. Interested in history? Language? Math? Consider yourself the WRONG kind of independent. Not only is chivalry dead, but so is the art of knowing how to carry on a conversation with an adult. Kinda sucks. The bright side is that there are a ton of great people in my generation with tons of integrity, and I’m convinced there always will be …But they aren’t the majority today. For the time being, philosophy and knowledge and the growth of ideas are simply not popular.

What does this have to with what I started with? (I’m actually asking myself that rn) Well, starting a blog — a real blog — is a way of distinguishing myself from the things of 2013 that I find petty and wrong. I want this blog to be a source of positive energy for people of all ages to read, give feedback, challenge, and hopefully enjoy. I’ll be analyzing everything here. It’s a good outlet for someone who analyzes things endlessly.

I leave you with this photo of me jumping off a cliff. With a life jacket of course. #safetyfirst.

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4 comments on “On Blogging and Generation Selfie

  1. RCase
    July 8, 2013

    Jennifer, thanks for posting this.

    It’s pretty clear Andrew’s a smart guy. He’s one of those people you meet or learn about that make you think that perhaps there is hope for the future and it’s not an absolute certainty the world is headed for the crapper. And yet.. he does assert that he considers himself a minority in his generation.

    Let me propose to Andrew (hope he reads this.. I couldn’t figure out how to leave a comment directly at his blog page) that he would represent the minority in every generation. People of his type (that is, thinkers, highly analytical dudes) of all generations have likely felt largely ‘alone’ from time to time.

    Also- reading has probably always been ‘nerdy’ to those who can’t be bothered to sit down, shut up, shut everything else out and do it. And if chilvary is dead, that’s just a stronger argument to go against the tide and determine to resurrect it. Speak thoughtfully and carefully. No f-bombs. Hold a door open. Treat him/her like God’s little angel (because they are).

    The bulk of the population of our planet at any point in time can often appear to be pretty superficial, pretty surface, in their thinking. Not evil, not stupid, just.. not given to a lot of introspection. Look at what’s on TV tonight (or any night), or allow yourself to glance to the left or to the right as you check out of the supermarket and tell me I’m wrong.

    Imagining Andrew might read this, I would leave him with this quote attributed to one of my favorite ‘wise people’, Ghandi: “..be the change we wish to see in the world”. The world may not change as a result, but at least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re living your life in a manner that is real and true for you.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      July 8, 2013

      Thanks for the comment, I love that Ghandi quote 🙂 I’m pretty sure Andrew will read this. He and a lot of the kids who I work with just fill me with hope.

  2. Melanie Crutchfield
    July 6, 2013

    “For the time being, philosophy and knowledge and the growth of ideas are simply not popular.”

    Ack! That is a fully terrifying statement. Let’s hope the trend doesn’t hold.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      July 11, 2013

      I agree. But, Andrew and a lot of other teenagers who I know are thoughtful and knowledgable. They give me hope for a great future!

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This entry was posted on July 3, 2013 by in For Teens and Tweens and tagged , , , , .
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