It started for a good reason. I wanted to spy on my niece Jamie. Okay, it may not sound like a good reason to you but I felt no guilt trolling MySpace for her profile. In my opinion she was a half-step away from eloping to Afghanistan with a 40-year old man whose intentions were not as pure as mine. Yet, now I’m the bad guy. I feel like the creepy guy in the club who’s way too old to be a part of that crowd but still trying to pick-up women half his age.
It really did begin innocently enough with a conversation between me and another niece, Tanya. She was extolling all that is wonderful with MySpace because she was able to keep in contact with her cousins without wasting precious cell minutes. When she told me of some of the things found on her younger cousin’s site I was concerned to say the least. I figured the best route would be to see for myself. No one warned me that I would have to join the Family like Donnie Brasco to get a peak at her information. I needed to gain her trust to be accepted as a friend. I had to post my information to show that I was willing to do a give and take. And like Donnie, I was immediately sucked in. I was able to maintain some perspective which meant I refused to post any pictures but I would be a liar if I said the temptation wasn’t there.
Yes, the initial access was intriguing. So drunk was I with that access that I searched for my other teenaged nieces and nephews to glimpse their views on life, love, and anything they felt the urge to share. It has been nearly twenty years since my own teen years and I’d honestly forgotten, or effectively suppressed, the angst, self-reverence, and self-loathing of that period. I completely understand why teenagers loved that site. Imagine being able to indulge in your most delusional, narcissistic fantasies – Life According to Me! – with little to no filters or supervision. I was able to re-live some of those emotions through my nieces and nephews and let me tell you, it ain’t pretty. It’s simply the schizophrenic nature of teen years laid out in black and white. I love him! I hate him! She hates me! He hates her! In person, these are the kids that reply to every inquiry with fine. How’s school? Fine. How’s your afterschool job? Fine. How’re your friends? Fine. Well, MySpace let me in on insights that are usually reserved for school yearbooks and suicide notes.
But now that I’ve infiltrated their world what do I do with the information? I didn’t think this thing completely through. Is it normal for an 18-year old to be so in love with his first real girlfriend that he marks his status as “Married”? How about a 16-year girl who displays pictures of her baby sister with ambiguous captions implying the child is actually her daughter? I know you can reinvent yourself on the web but what’s the deal the one who is blatantly lying about her ethnicity – Black, Asian and Indian? WTF! I want to run and tell their parents but I’m not even sure what I’m telling them. Does this call for intervention or is it just adolescence?
I started this so I could be a watchdog so why do I feel like a rat?