Teens, review: Lay off generation text – they're the ones who'll make social media grow up

It's not hard to see how social media might be contributing to the much reported explosion in adolescent self-hatred and other mental-health issues

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The Independent Culture

I recently read somebody somewhere make the interesting observation that's today's generation of adults – say the over 35s – will be the last to be able to compare life both before and after the internet. Barring the sort of catastrophe that could destroy the worldwide web (and considering the internet was specifically designed to withstand nuclear war, that seems unlikely) none of today's teenagers will know the bliss, boredom or simply the sheer difference of not being connected online.

Certainly the 12 16-year-olds who trustingly gave over the use of their social media to the makers of Channel 4's Teens might suddenly feel terrifyingly isolated without the handsets that are now almost the natural (or semi-cyborg) extensions of their arms. Social media can also do the isolating, of course, as Jess discovered when she followed up her campaign to feed the homeless (or "give a beggar a burger" as she memorably put it, unconsciously echoing Labour's satirical spin on David Cameron's Big Society rhetoric, "hug a hoodie"), by supporting the campaign to end topless models appearing on Page 3 of The Sun.

To that end, Jess enterprisingly invited a spokeswoman for the No More Page 3 campaign to talk at her school, which is where things began to go wrong. When the speaker blithely compared Page 3 to slavery, some of her audience –instead of registering a passing distaste – were furiously tweeting their disgust, and the backlash hit Jess full in face. The ensuing Twitter storm – or, to get down with the kids for a moment, "Twitter beef" – let loose the full venom of the keyboard warriors, and things got nasty and personal very quickly.

It's not hard to see how social media might be contributing to the much reported explosion in adolescent self-hatred and other mental-health issues. On the other hand, what was heartening here was the self-awareness of most of the teens in Teens; they may not have experienced a pre-internet age, but they understand online forces more fully and viscerally than us epoch-straddling adults. It's they not us, you feel, who will eventually make social media grow up and act responsibly. Some hope, eh?

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