In “Introducing Identity,” David Buckingham identifies an argument that supports the view of today’s new media technology as “a force of liberation for young people–a means for them to reach past the constraining influence of their elders, and to create new, autonomous forms of communication and community” (13). But I’m not sure how “autonomous” the younger digital generation can really be. They are definitely empowered to break away from traditional opressors–parents, like the argument suggests, and perhaps also institutional (at least in its traditional forms).
Still, are they (or any of us) really free from controlling forces in digital media? One of Buckingham’s concerns points to “the undemocratic tendencies of online ‘communities'” (14). In fact, if we look at one such online community like Facebook, it’s quite apparent that there is a lot of follow-the-leader activities going on. One day about a month ago, women (and girls) on Facebook started putting up colours and patterns on their statuses. Some men even joined in, many without knowing what exactly they were participating in–their favourite colours?, the colour of their current mood?, or what? And when many asked those who participated, the resulting elitism and reluctance to reveal was met either with participants’ own lack of understanding, or a cliquish desire to keep that knowledge from more people. Only after a whole day, or even longer, did many find out that it turned out to be the colour of the bra you are wearing at the time in support of breast cancer awareness. Nevermind the irony esoteric knowledge/practices against the purpose of awareness, what disturbs me more is the antisocial, anti-democratic behaviours that arose from the event. And this is but one example on Facebook, while many others include the so-called “doppelganger” profile picture week, viral gaming like Julianne has noted, etc. And these behaviours are certainly not limited to Facebook. Go to any site that has social interaction–MySpace, Twitter, even markets like Amazon and eBay–and they’re all there.