Another beautiful MySpace article: Online Terror Threat Hits Local High School. The “terrorists” are two boys who are threatening to show up in school with machine guns. As a result of their posts to MySpace, most students didn’t show up for school. The school district is pissed and blames MySpace for enabling students to “post their thoughts and ideas” without surveillance. They are deciding whether or not to sue MySpace.
::smacking forehead:: We didn’t learn from Columbine did we? Both of those kids also posted their threats on websites. What they were doing was a cry for help. I’d bank money that those kids are feeling alienated and disillusioned with authority. Goddess knows the number of times i had dreams about blowing up my school growing up. Why is MySpace at fault? Because they are letting kids speak their minds? Is it better that they speak their minds so far removed from adult vision that they can’t actually be supported when things go horribly wrong? Why not learn from the kids and try to support them rather than take away their tools for expression?
I was talking with a friend about this and he reminded me that these services help kids who are alienated come together and, sometimes, this means that they get validated in their alienation which exacerbates the situation. He’s right and this is a problem with some of the cutters on LiveJournal – they try to outdo each other with more severe images. But then i talked to a psychologist about the cutters and she pointed out that she’s so thankful for LJ. Now, she can see into the lives of people like her patients, better understand their psychology than anything they say in therapy and be a more effective therapist. Sure, she has to deal with the peer validation issue, which she admitted was more significant on LJ than in everyday life, but she said it’s worth it because knowing what’s going on in their heads helps her help them overcome the peer pressure bit as well as the actual damage. She told me it was far more effective this way.
In my research group, we started talking about cultural differences regarding peer groups and age-related validation. In the US, it’s expected that you will be friends with people your age, but elsewhere, it’s more common to socialize with cousins and family members of all different ages. Throughout our lives in the US, we’re chunked by age and then we’re spewed out into the adult world and it’s so weird to make friends with people that are older than us. And we think it to be weird when friends span large age gaps.
The problem with a lack of diversity around age is that you’re constantly being validated by people who are in the same stage as you, who are dealing with the same problems and don’t have much in the way of perspective. I was thinking about how Manuel Castells always talks about the solution to ending violence starts with having diverse groups of people always interact. He thinks about this mostly in terms of socio-economic class, but does this apply to age too? Would we stop more youth violence if teens weren’t so age-segregated? If the groups that provided them with validation were from different age slices?
It’s pretty horrifying that we’re talking about teens as “terrorists” now. More fear, always more fear. Of course, the more we fear teens and place restrictions on them, the more prone they will to seek agency through whatever means possible, even violence. We’re creating our own demise through oppression. (::cough:: Paris.) When will we figure out how to support people through feelings of alienation?
God, i feel like a broken record on this one, but it seems like the media is doing a damn good job acting as one too.