Sexting, n00dz and narcissism: the social media generation
There was once a time when age-appropriate girls in skimpy bikinis and boys detailing their sexual experiences existed within the confines of Playboy, Zoo and FHM. Today, you can save the $7.50 a month so long as you have a decent Broadband connection. The emphasis we place on restricting the availability of Internet pornography often overlooks an unfortunate truth: it’s likely sitting right there on your Facebook news feed, and it probably isn’t much older than thirteen.
Meet “the social media generation” – the text-savvy, Facebook-obsessed Photoshop gurus just dying to thrust out their goods for the camera. If it’s not undersized bikini tops in the changeroom mirror, it’s the ‘Sneaky Hat’ trend of posing naked with a cap over your member, featuring an empowering “LyK iF u TiiNk ii’M sXc iN dIss” caption. (http://www.thesneakyhats.com/index.html)
Interestingly enough, such photos are almost always accompanied with hundreds of approving comments from friends, well-wishers and perverts alike. That’s right, tween pornography has become a social norm.
In a world where mirrors and iPhone cameras have diminished the need for Jenna Jamison, one wonders: is society sexualising social media, or is social media sexualising society?
On one hand, the recent influx in peanuts and mosquito bites can be attributed to the fact that – with a low-quality camera and a basic knowledge of Photoshop or Picnik – people can essentially invent their own image. Bulging, slimming, enlargening, cleansing and colour-altering effects are all available at the push of a button, and somewhere in those 300 puckered-up poses strategically filmed above the bathroom toilet will exist at least 200 keepers, carefully edited and uploaded for everyone’s ogling pleasure. Edited or otherwise, seeing photos of yourself looking like Megan Fox (in your eyes, anyway) can be extremely self-empowering. Facebook after all is photo-centric by nature – the equivalent of heaven for “sexy” young teens who love to pose and are encouraged to upload anything and everything they’ve got.
On the other hand, there are many other factors that must be held accountable: a superficial and sex-obsessed popular media, impossibly-attractive celebrities plastering their bodies all over your television/computer screen, and a society that has gradually become more prone to letting young teenagers run their own lives. Few teens can escape the perpetual pressure placed on them to look as fit, glamorous and appealing as possible, no matter the age. Social media tools present an easy outlet for handling the pressure, and looking like a superstar. Ironically, here is the outcome:
The key ingredients missing here are education and supervision. It’s not outrageous to assume a number of parents would be shocked if they could see their teen’s Facebook profile. But too many adults are clueless, as the social media generation is well-aware. Young teenagers in particular are often unaware of the legal implications, and just how fast-paced and wide-spreading their little Facebook update can be when someone clicks that ‘Share’ button.
Just last week, an inner-Sydney man named Ravshan Usmanov was jailed for six months for sharing nude photos of his ex-girlfriend on Facebook. According to court documents, they were as explicit as “nude in certain positions and clearly showing her breasts and genitalia.” For the love of God, why are you willing to risk sending such photos in the first place? Furthermore, it’s now a common trend for employers to stalk Facebook profiles to get a bit of background info on potential employees – and don’t overestimate the power of private profile settings, because they only go so far.
Here’s a worthy proposal for the sake of your future, and for the benefit of every self-respecting human being with a Facebook, Twitter or Myspace account: please turn off the camera, shut your legs, and put some clothes on. No one needs to unintentionally feel like an Internet predator whilst they’re casually scrolling through their news feed.
And never forget the golden rule: assume every status, every photo, every little thing you upload is being viewed by the entire world. Because for all you know, it will be.