Friday, October 8, 2010

Social Networking: A New Way to an Old Need Among Teenagers

In “Why Youth Heart Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life” Dana Boyd (2008) examines how social networking sites, specifically MySpace, engage teenagers in self-exploration as they seek “insights into identity formation, status negotiation, and peer-to-peer sociality” (p. 119). In MySpace, a network public establishes itself as individuality flourishes amidst masks, personas, and fantasies. All traditional boundaries are replaced as participants communicate and collaborate across time and space. The “of the moment” communications that were once stored as personal memories or diary pieces, become “recorded for posterity,” as “like minds” are given a path to discovery through searchability and a distinction as the moment can be replicated and shared anywhere, at any time (Boyd. 2008, p. 126). Teens are drawn to these social network communities as they are drawn to “the ability to visualize their social world through the network collection of profiles” (p. 122).

Ms. Boyd reveals how business interests understand the possibilities of creating a cyber networking site in which communities are given the reality of individual creation, collective identity, and public recognition. The MySpace creators played on the music industry to give a vast audience of teens the possibility to realize the public status of what many adults recognize as “groupies.” They also gave teenagers a place to create, through profiles, their own identities based in perceptions of how they visualize the world and its realities.

As a teenager expressing myself through the essence of Woodstock and its music artists, I can reflect on the association with music defining a persona-and-cause mentality. Seeing myself as a revolutionary leader of organized protests during the Viet Nam War, I can reflect on how my actions hurt many of my peers who were forced to fight in a war which I perceived as irrational, immoral and socially unjust. My parents tried to protect and guide, as many rallies and protests turned violent and included adults who could threaten or negatively persuade, but they couldn’t suppress my need to express and “manage impressions” as I resisted at every bend of my “let me be myself and learn for myself” lens of exploring personal identity.

As a high school teacher, I see this same need for expression and resistance to suppression of freedoms in today’s teenagers. Little has changed in teenagers’ needs. It is the means that has undergone transformation. MySpace is a new way for teenagers to find their place, through action and interaction, in today’s society. Yes, it can be dangerous. As Boyd states, “our role as adults is not to be their policemen, but to be their guides” (p. 137).

For more information on how to guide and safely utilize social networking as a learning tool at a variety of levels resulting in positively impacted outcomes for users of all ages, I suggest the many resources at:

To learn more about the fascinating Danah Boyd I strongly suggest reading her blog at:

1 comment:

  1. Jill, Thanks for the connection to boyd's website!!
    I also highly appreciated your quote from her, referencing the difference between police and guides.