It’s rather telling when several of the first responses to a google search of the phrase “teens talk back” are several parenting sites about controlling teen back-talk. This type of opinion permeates the internet; one that others teenagers as an out of control, rebellious, angst-ridden mess. A good portion of this appears to come from adult internet users.
But a lot of it comes from teens, too.
In fact, many teenagers seem to possess a certain amount of ageism against their peers, and they use various forms of social media to assert their opinions. Amongst submissions by (supposedly) teenagers for the “Teenagers” page of Urban Dictionary were varying impressions. One user argues that teenagers are (quoting verbatim) “Something im not proud to be, because a lot of teenagers are quite simply put; idiots.” Another says that a teenager is “Someone who has everything but appreciates nothing.” Conversely, a user claims they are “People who get no respect and are looked down upon because some of us are idiots.” Another discusses the issue in more detail, adding that “The word’s negative connotations stem from the actions of the minority of adolescents who typically display qualities and proclivities that can be construed as unappreciative, lame, and otherwise emo.” Amongst the respondents, the general consensus seems to be that “Like any age group, theres some good and some bad.” There’s this idea that there are some bad teenagers, but that most are okay.
Many of the users on the social media site Tumblr appear to be teenagers, too. Sometimes they perpetuate teen stereotypes:
This one, similar the opinions on Urban Dictionary, perpetuates the idea that other teenagers are rambunctious, but the teenager creating the post is some exception to the rule. Others lament the state of teenage-hood with quotes: “Teenagers are the most misunderstood people on Earth. We are treated like children but expected to act like adults.” Youtube also offers an outlet for teens to speak out. As we saw in a media artifact presentation, videos like “Teens React” show depict various teen opinions. Others post their own homemade videos, asserting their own autonomy in doing so.
Ultimately, while the media often promotes the dominate ideology belittling and “othering” teens, it still exists as an outlet for teenagers to talk back, even if it is in ways that both resist and reaffirm these opinions. That teenagers have the agency and opportunity to utilize these tools is at least a step in the right direction.
Whenever I look over posts and opinions about/from teenagers, I feel this weird disconnect. My experience never seemed to pay attention to any of those stereotypes. I don’t remember cheerleader cliques or football players ruling the school; it seemed like kids all just sat with their friends at lunch, regardless. My table alone had people who were athletes, band members, techies, etc., but that wasn’t what labeled them. Athletes (like cheerleaders) only wore their uniforms on game-days. Chorus and band kids weren’t treated as social outcasts; in fact, most athletes and A.P. students overlapped with various extracurriculars. It wasn’t one or the other; it was band and football. Nobody (from my observations) seemed to care about any of that. Or maybe it was just me who didn’t, and I projected my beliefs on my classmates. But even as a teenager, I didn’t think teenagers were some weird, alien thing, as it seems so many teens think today.
Anyway, what were your memories of high school and teenage-hood? Did you see these stereotypes in the flesh?