It's hard to be a teenage girl in any decade, but it's exponentially more traumatizing to go through puberty these days thanks to social media. Here are our predictions for why it'll be even shittier to be a teenage girl on the internet in 2013.
I recently found a bunch of notes that I passed to my "friends" during middle school. Why did I save so many mini sticky notes covered with bubble letters written in pastel gel pen? Unclear, but they sure are a fantastic reminder of why being an 8th grade girl should've been one of Dante's circles of Hell. Half the notes are me and my frenemy/idol Kim incessantly making fun of this girl Stephanie who Kim didn't like. The other half are plaintive laments that I slipped to a friend I actually trusted, wondering why Kim didn't invite me to a slumber party she was throwing after semi-formal. Tragic.
It's difficult for me to imagine how girls handle all that cattiness now that it's plastered on the internet for everyone to peruse. What if I had to click through Facebook photos of said epic slumber party I wasn't invited to? What if Kim and I had pestered Stephanie with anonymous bitchy questions on Formspring? Here are five reasons why 2013 will be even worse for teenage girls than 2012:
Scrolling through photo after photo of my friends' impressive Christmas presents on Instagram this week made me feel like I was back in middle school, when all of my spoiled classmates got way cooler presents than I did and would brag about each night's (we were mostly Jews) bounty by the lockers every morning. I'm all for announcing personal accomplishments via social media, but really? We're posting photos of the presents people get us now?
I don't actually care, because I am an adult and my mom renewed my New Yorker subscription for me this holiday season, but it must be tough for teenagers whose parents can't afford or simply refuse to buy them designer clothes to see photos of their friends' new Juicy Couture sweats and Kate Spade bags. (Yes, I fully realize that those items are probably not as lusted after as they were when I was 13/my peers were budding Real Housewives. Now there's probably more hipster bullying, right? Must have correct vintage!)
Prediction: Instagram will launch an advertising component that allows jealous users to instantly online shop for the filtered items their friends flaunt.
I first heard about Snapchat from my friend's 18-year-old sister. We were sitting around their dinner table when someone asked why anyone would be interested in an app that only displays photos for a few seconds at a time; the expert rolled her eyes and said, "Duh, for sexting!" Now Facebook is getting into the teXXXting market, too. (They won't admit it, but it's obvious that's what these apps are for.)
Nonononononononooo. Teenage girls do not need more reasons to text topless photos to boys who will almost certainly share them with their friends, if not the entire school and Reddit as well.
Prediction: Hunter Moore's revamped website will prosper thanks to asshole teenagers who manipulate their girlfriends/rivals into flashing their newly acquired boobs via this "super safe app that can't possibly save sexts, like, I swear! ;)"
Nasty comments on Ask.Fm and Formspring were cited as a large part of the reason why both Jessica Laney and Amanda Todd killed themselves this year. Dozens of teens asked YouTube commenters if they were ugly. Why can't teenagers resist the siren call of anonymous Q&A websites?
Easy: because teenagers are obsessed with themselves and what people really think about them. It doesn't matter if Ask.fm and Formspring are shut down (and they won't be); teens — and particularly teen girls, who are under massive pressure to be pretty and perfect and purebutalsokindaslutty — have always wanted to know what people say about them behind their backs. It's only going to get worse.
Prediction: College applicants will start compiling "Best Of" lists culled from Formspring compliments to include along with their teacher recommendations.
Sexualized photos of minors became slightly harder to come by on Reddit last fall when a high school substitute teacher posted "sexy" photos of his underage students on the now shuttered r/creepshots forum, but it's only a matter of time until Redditors devise a new way to treat young women with less respect than they would caged zoo animals — sorry, I mean, defend their own constitutional rights to "free speech"/upskirt photos.
Prediction: 2011 was the year of r/jailbait. 2012 was the year of r/creepshots. How will loser Redditors strive to feel macho by attempting to victimize teenage girls in 2013? We're not giving them any ideas.
It sucks to be a teenage girl on the internet, but it also sucks to be the parent of a teenage girl on the internet, which is why more parents are taking advantage of technology to follow their precious darlings' every tweet and IRL move. Interested in GPS tracking devices? How about an app that "gather[s] intelligence" on your kids "wherever they go", or an online service that "scans the Web in case a child decides to try a new social network that the grown-ups have not even heard of yet"?
The problem is that teenagers who feel spied upon won't stop sexting or answering questions about whether they're mega whores on Formspring. They'll just think their parents don't trust them and concoct wily (and potentially more harmful) ways to continue logging onto their favorite websites.
Prediction: Well-intentioned parents will go to pathetically embarrassing lengths to to e-monitor their kids instead of actually talking to them about why and how the internet can be a dangerous, hurtful place — and why they should be think twice before sharing photos of or gossiping, even (and especially) anonymously, about others online. Too bad.
[Image by Jim Cooke.]