Is the media trying too hard to get the attention of our generation?
Selfie is a new show starring Karen Gillan, a former actor on Britain’s Doctor Who, who portrays Eliza Dooley, a twenty-something with the world of social media dominating her life.
Many shows like Selfie are attempting to gain a wider audience by relating to young people as well. It seems that marketers working for these shows believe that in order to get teens to watch their material, there has to be references to social media within the script. Why are teenagers always seen as technology-obsessed, narcissistic people? In an an article from the British news site, The Independent, Jonathan Birdwell, head of the citizenship program at Demos and author of the report, commented: “People think of teenagers as apathetic, lazy and self-centered, with a sense of entitlement; that’s the dominant negative stereotype.” Birdwell brings to light the fact that the media tends to highlight teens’ “dark sides” rather than their achievements. BSGE 8th grader, Andrea V. ’19 agrees with this view, saying that the media tends to paint teenagers as “irresponsible adolescents who don’t know better than to make the wrong choices.” She is one of the many young people who opposes these false portrayals.
What many seem to ignore is that teenagers are quite capable of doing more than texting and taking selfies. For example, in September of 2014 it was discovered that sixteen-year old Turkish student, Elif Bilgin, came up with her own chemical process to turn bananas into non-decaying bioplastic. This is an amazing accomplishment that seems to be overlooked by the media. One can see this through a simple search on Google. When searching the term “teenage accomplishments,” only 1,160,000 results show up. Yet when typing in “teenager selfie”, instead 13,400,000 results come up. What’s wrong here?
But these negative connotations to young people do not stop at selfies. Teenagers are also seen as rowdy party animals who prioritize drinking, partying and being mischievous. When looking at the song titles listed under “Teen Pop!” in Spotify playlists, selections that come up are “Life of the Party”, Don’t Say Goodnight”, “We Own the Night” and many more like this. These songs are supposed to capture what “our generation” is supposed to do.
Then there are the songs that go out of their way to express the media age by using popular terms from social media. The music video for the song, “I’m Ready”, by AJR, revolves around using various media platforms like Tumblr and Twitter to share the talent of the band. It can be seen from the song’s lyrics such as “We’ll arrive behind a hash-tag sign” that the music industry is trying too hard to cater to young people through references to social media trends. Another song that does this is “#Selfie” by The Chainsmokers in which the lyrics are supposed to belong to the mouth of a superficial young girl obsessed with partying, looking cool and taking photos of herself. An even more extreme version of using social networking terms in a melody is the song “#Everything” by Far Young. In the first four lines, five hashtags are used as a form of lyrics. It seems that the negative depictions of teens in pop culture and the media is endless.
So, should less attention be focused on teenagers’ stereotypical bad habits, and more of who they actually are? Many teenagers may act different online from how they act in person. BSGE 9th grader Sarah M.’18 puts it well: “…we don’t get to know who they really are.” Perhaps if there was more of an effort to tap into the real lives of the teens of the world, the media wouldn’t be so keen on including a hashtag in every sentence.