This week, we read an article titled, Digital dressing up: modelling female teen identity in the discursive spaces of the fashion blogosphere, by Tara Chittenden (2010). The reason why I am discussing it for this week’s Process Post is because it genuinely scared me and it’s a topic that, I believe, needs to be discussed more.
Chittenden discusses in her article the dynamic between teenage girls and publishing their thoughts on the Web via blogging. She specifically analyzes teenage girls and fashion blogs, but in general she talks about how blogs fulfill an important need during adolescence, and that is finding a sense of belonging. She discusses how blogs provide adolescents, and specifically adolescent girls, a “safe space” to express who they are. Although this may be the case, Chittenden also discusses the danger of what these fashion blogs can become for teenage girls. Coming from experience, being a teenage girl is a complex time where you’re navigating through many different social spheres and how to interact in them. Competition of cultural and social capital between other girls was excruciating at times. Adolescents today have an added level to this competition via fashion blogging. Chittenden describes how, “the discursive spaces formed through the interaction of bloggers and their followers… facilitate a process of exchange, whereby teens can exploit their fashion tastes to increase the value of their social capital” (p. 506).
When I was a teenager, there was underlying materialistic competition between our peers at school (which is why I am in favour of school uniforms), however teenagers growing up in the age of the internet now have massive pressure to maintain an online image of themselves that exploits what their parents can afford to buy them. In my opinion, this is a slippery slope for these teenagers and what leads them to feel entitled and depressed simultaneously. I used to be able to get away from this comparison and competition when I got home from school, now it’s in these teenagers lives 24/7 with technology and social media. Not only that, what happens to their peers who’s families cannot afford the expensive brands, technology, and materials that are being portrayed as what you need to “fit in?” I believe Chittenden’s findings can also be applied to Instagram as I think more teenagers (and people in general) today are active on that platform than blogs compared to 2010 when her article was published.
I believe this kind of toxic online presence that teenagers are getting involved in at a younger and younger age is a topic that needs to be discussed more. More discussions involving this topic are being implemented in schools, however I believe parents should also be aware of their children’s online presence, how it is effecting their lives and being proactive in having discussions about why they are putting certain things out on the internet for everyone to see. Teenagers shouldn’t have to feel that they need to do these things in order to belong and I believe it is adults’ responsibility to help their children and students make sure they know this.