Friday, May 23, 2008


Gawker calls blogger Emily Gould one half of blogging's equivalent of George and Martha from Who's Afraid of Virginia, and if that's the case, then Martha's taking the war to the New York Times, with a piece in this Sunday's Times Magazine, wherein she gives a great deal of insight into her life online.

The details of who Emily Gould is and the Gawker backstory are readily available and well covered in the piece, and none of it is explicitly fodder for a blog about teen fiction. After all, Gawker and its ilk are creations of 20 and 30 somethings who straddle (barely) a pre-Internet era. You can only talk about "overshare" if there was once an established level of appropriate sharing and you can kind of remember it. In Emily's words:

Of course, some people have always been more naturally inclined toward oversharing than others. Technology just enables us to overshare on a different scale. Long before I had a blog, I found ways to broadcast my thoughts — to gossip about myself, tell my own secrets, tell myself and others the ongoing story of my life. As soon as I could write notes, I passed them incorrigibly. In high school, I encouraged my friends to circulate a notebook in which we shared our candid thoughts about teachers, and when we got caught, I was the one who wanted to argue about the First Amendment rather than gracefully accept punishment. I walked down the hall of my high school passing out copies of a comic-book zine I drew, featuring a mock superhero called SuperEmily, who battled thinly veiled versions of my grade’s reigning mean girls. In college, I sent out an all-student e-mail message revealing that an ex-boyfriend shaved his chest hair. The big difference between these youthful indiscretions and my more recent ones is that you can Google my more recent ones.

It's that last sentence that I think has interesting implications for writing teenager characters and scenarios. What does it mean when your youthful indiscretions are Googleable? When you no longer have the luxury of the circumscribed playground of high school, where your record is essentially expunged at the end--at least as far as the public is concerned?

Inevitably, in high school you will seek a platform and want to be heard. When you get that platform, you will, in all likeluhood, say something you won't want to be reminded of in a decade. Ten years ago, the scope, audience, and longevity of that platform for all but the most outrageous acts was narrow, small, and short. You could be someone at sixteen and not hear about it when you were twenty six. I didn't quite rise to Emily's level in high school, but I certainly wrote some things in school publications that I'm glad not to find on Google (I recall evoking Nazi fascism in a critique of a relatively mild dress code). I'm the only one who remembers them. For lot of teenagers, there is no similar experience. Very little is truly temporary or private. What's it like not to have the experience or expecation of privacy and impermanence?

1 comment:

Susan Fine said...

I think INITIATION speaks to this!