The Future Weave Of Our Shared Stories: High School, Social Media, And The End Of A Mass Media Society

Posted on February 15, 2010


Growing up, I watched a lot of TV.

As a result, I pretty much internalized the American mass media portrayal of high school social life.

Heading into high school at Glebe Collegiate Institute in Ottawa, I believed there would be cool kids and uncool kids. The cool kids would be rich and play sports, get the good-looking girls and boys, and pick on the poorer, less attractive, uncool kids who would study a lot.

I don’t really remember how I expected to fit into this dynamic. I suspect, if I thought about it at all, my goal was not to participate in any of the reindeer games.

Once I pulled my head out of my ass around grade twelve and had a look around me, I realized Glebe’s social life didn’t really match my mass media expectations of high school.

I suspect Glebe didn’t fit these expectations because it was large enough that the “officially” cool kids could be cool in their own corner of this adolescent universe and the loners, outsiders, weirdos, square pegs, and artsy-types could do our own version of cool in our own corner.

Furthermore, our people seized the primary means of communications: the PA system. As a result, it very much felt like we were at the centre of our own universe.

In a way, I think, this is now happening on a much larger and potentially global scale, thanks to social media. All the loners, outsiders, weirdos, square pegs, and artsy-types are now able to connect in a way that was previously impossible.

Not only can we find our fellow freaks in our own cities, we can also find and communicate with them all over the world. And there is enough of us that we can throw our own parties and ignore the “officially” cool kids.

Social media is opening up the possibility of a whole new kind of society.

Of course, there will be growing pains along the way. It will take time to figure out how best to adapt to these new and unexpected social possibilities. Some folks will take unfair advantage of the situation; others may try to recreate old social systems for new groups; and some people are going to be too confused and unsure of everything that’s going-on to really adapt.

There will be mistakes, experiments, failures, and successes.

Old habits die hard but they do die eventually. Many of us will adapt and imagine and create new ways of living and interacting that don’t correspond to the mass media messages we internalized over the years.

We will gather to share our stories and we will gather in as many ways with as many different people as there are stories to tell.

So? What was your high school experience like? Did it fit the American mass media vision of high school or was it something altogether different? Do you think social media is going to change our social life substantially or is it simply going to duplicate and reinforce old patterns.

I’d love to hear what you have to say!

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