The Julia Allison Effect: Is Social Media Stunting Today’s Youth?

Kids these days! With their DS Lites and weird worship of Selena Gomez, they’re strange little beasts. Intrepid journalistic strides this past weekend have led us all to the following conclusions: (1) Children will never ever be able to possess an actual job because texting and tweeting has diminished their diction; (2) with such strides in technology, these same children are now careening into an era of heightened self-awareness that leads them to age prematurely. So fast, in fact, that no amount of Cosmopolitan-endorsed thong scrunchies can hope to restore quickly-fading youth. What to term an epidemic characterized by peaking early due to broadcasting boring details of your life before fading into mediocrity? The Julia Allison Effect!

It’s all relative though. In The Times, scribe Brad Stone asserts, “The Children of Cyberspace: Old Fogies by Their 20s.” He leads the story with this observation: That because his two-year old daughter picks up his Kindle and terms it, “Daddy’s book,” she is becoming assimilated into the bedraggled youth culture that’s branded Ke$ha a messiah. Curiously absent from his requiem for the innocence of childhood: Parental responsibility. Stone fails to add how, as a dad, he can probably save his daughter from overexposure by just denying her access to an iPhone in the first place. Curiously present in this requiem: A summary of opinions canvassed from toddlers. His thesis is tenuous and his support is wobbly: Kids will grow up, with Kindles and spindles and whatever else, and they’ll be fine.

Stone presents instant gratification as another tack that contributes to children becoming “old fogies by their 20s”–without taking note of how e-mail or even the evolution of our postal system made similar case studies out of generations past, who had to wait weeks or months on end for a message to be delivered. His argument is anchored in the way culture is delivered. Stone presses on, “She has identified the Kindle as a substitute for words printed on physical pages. I own the device and am still not completely sold on the idea.” His look at technology becomes the central hiccup with his argument: Skype video chats and kid-friendly iPhone games are erroneously presented as tokens of premature aging. Handheld video games aren’t new, alien pieces of technology. Before the iPhone, the PSP, or the DS Lite, there were Game Gears and Gameboys. Without one of these, I wouldn’t have survived 25-hour flights transatlantic flights between Detroit and Calcutta when I was age 11. No child would’ve.

Similarly, I probably wouldn’t have opted to go back to Calcutta last December for a cousin’s wedding if not for contacting extended family over Skype beforehand. Stone fails to account for how many families on opposite corners of the globe were among some of the earliest adapters of video chatting service. It’s a cost-effective and a simple alternative to racking up ridiculous long-distance charges. As phone plans become increasingly bloated, alternatives like Skype are not only tools that will shape the lives of kids who are growing up now, but they’ll quickly become the status quo among adults who are looking for sensible ways to slash household budgets.

Stone neglects to single out Twitter as the leading reason kids are aging quickly. Hashtagging the minutiae of their lives, tweens have become adept at creating trends out of nothing. They’re becoming self-styled public relations mavens. They’re learning faster and faster how to get a rise out of the world around them. A drawback, according to the Daily Mail, is how all this comes at a cost. In the age of 140-character outbursts and rapid-fire texts, the same demographic driving much of our consumer culture is verging on unemployable as their vocabulary and grammar skills start to cave in. Although as tweens, all of us tend to communicate in StudlyCaps anyway.

But Stone’s terming tween-aged twitterati “fogies” is missing the mark. Because this demographic tend to tire of trends when actual oldies wise up to them. And they always have. Case in point: When Farmville went from tween-endorsed procrastination device to mom-aged Tenth Wonder of the World.

This kind of doomspeak has been around since time immemorial. Long ago in the mid-to-late nineties, in the twilight of my tweenage, the Spice Girls, Clueless‘ “What-ever!” and similar cultural hallmarks foretold the alleged cultural demise of my generation. Yet that generation has since evolved into a mostly contributory workforce. So perhaps researchers and parents need to take a breath, pop a Valium and give their children the space to eff up with social media. At some point, their kid will tweet, “OMG EATING CHIPS WHO CARES #DELETINGTWITTER” and #DELETINGTWITTER will become the final hashtag for three-quarters of the microblogging service’s customer base. By then, a new social media application will let us update our statuses by simply thinking them.

Share Button

Facebook Comments