Social Media: I’m Doing it All Wrong

February 20, 2014

Fame and fortune are just a few mouse clicks away and I easily let it go by me.

Whether they’re getting retweeted by members of One Direction, or liking the Hunger Games Facebook page for a chance to be included in the movie’s credits, today’s teens are directly interacting with pop culture — celebrities, movies, music, and, increasingly, brands — in ways never before possible.

Tweet pictures of yourself at a Lady Gaga concert, and maybe she’ll call you from the stage — a moment sponsored by the cell phone company Virgin Mobile.

Send Beyonce your selfie, and maybe it’ll be included in the Pepsi-sponsored intro to her Super Bowl halftime show.

Do kids think they’re being used to promote these brands? Do they care? Or in a new teenage reality where being Internet famous seems to be just a click or a post away, does the perceived chance to be the next big star make it all worth it?

In Generation Like, an eye-opening follow-up to FRONTLINE’s 2001 documentary The Merchants of Cool, author Douglas Rushkoff returns to the world of youth culture to explore how the perennial teen quest for identity and connection has migrated to social media — and how big brands are increasingly co-opting young consumers’ digital presences.

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Frontline’s story is fairly amazing; from the amount of information that kids will share to the lengths they will go to have followers and likes. Then to see the parents of those same kids encourage them . . . well, it’s a new world and one where I don’t have to worry about that behavior from my sons.

As one commenter wrote, “If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product.”