Interviewing a group of 17 – 18 year old students about their uses of Facebook yesterday reminded me of a few things. Firstly, that there are a great many ways of engaging with the same thing; secondly, that even if the activities that young people are involved in over time might change superficially, young people remain pre-occupied with the same identity and social issues as ever.
Before I explain, I think maybe I should say that I don’t think I will try to discuss anything and audio record it, with as many as eight people again! That aside, it was very useful to have done this, as it reminded me of the dynamics that exist amongst young people who are attending courses together and how they banter and tease etc etc This was a good reminder of the meatspace stuff that inevitably filters into the Facebook activities.
Number one finding – the students all told me that they did not like completing their Facebook profiles; most had only put in their name, photo, date of birth and city where they live. After that, they say they rarely update their status; they do not write on their wall, and don’t like it when others do so. They said they mainly chat on the instant messaging facility in Facebook and that they also join groups. The groups are for joining and looking at , but they rarely write anything. They spend a lot of time looking at girls’ photos, talking with each other about them and trying to get the girls to ‘add’ them as friends. So my first point is that while there is a lot of looking, & some reading happening, there is not much writing or much straying across to lots of other sites to get links etc
The boys are making lots of collections however; they have lists of which groups they belong to (automatically created by Facebook) and they can display, in their ‘friends’ section, the profile pictures of the girls they have managed to add; there is something here of the collector; the groups are about funny things and the girls are to do with sexuality. (Many of the pictures of the girls’ pix are sexually provocative etc). These are the public displays of connection the boys seemed keen to share on their Facebooks.
This was all a really fascinating wake up call for me and reminded me of stuff I had been writing about ten years ago for my PhD thesis around boys’ demonstrations of hetero-normative masculinity in school…. (Paper here: expressionsofgender)…. In the classroom, I noticed these demonstrations had to be made on a regular basis, so that they would be construed always as ‘proper’ male and as heterosexual. In the classroom, such displays were often highly disruptive, anti-academic and anti feminist. In being interviewed, in showing me the Facebook pages, the students continued to banter the whole time, licking each other into shape, making each other behave in the hetero- normative ways. I liked this group of kids; don’t get me wrong. But they are a far cry from the Facebooking people I had been envisaging for a while – who have been writerly, keen on presenting themselves in text and looking for alternative possibilities. These boys were reflecting their college selves into their Facebook selves, that’s true. But the digital revolution is not one that is transforming these essential aspects of young men.
When I have managed to transcribe the recordings, there will be more to say no doubt.
Below we have a piece from Charlieissocoollike – with his take on teenage boys. Charlie is clearly VERY middleclass and has now, I noticed, got an international following of adoring girls. These girls make video responses to his films and echo many of the techniques that he sees in his work. A fascinating cultural phenomenon – we see some memes across these videos – some of which are multimodal – but I do not see Charlieissocoollike as demoonstrating anything like what is typical in Internet use. Anyhow – have a laugh at this:
There is something very Adrian Mole and certainly very English in all this. Now a video response from a fan in Australia