I am no stranger to the ideology of today's Hollywood culture and the go-for-blood standards that often favor airbrushed beauties, outrageous behavior and hyper-sexuality (a la Lady Gaga and Britney Spears). I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my entertainment career. But I'm a small-town jazz singer, with short blonde hair, skin stunned by the LA sun and the smallest breasts Southern California has ever seen - I am no Pussycat Doll. In this cutthroat, image-driven industry I sometimes wonder if I have the guts to run with the Gagas. I definitely have the drive, but there's a difference between doing what it takes to be noticed and doing whatever it takes. Strangely, I see this same mentality whenever I power-up my laptop. It's surprising how our social networking sites and our aim for power and social acceptance among our peers can bare a similar whatever-it-takes attitude.
Facebook started becoming popular around the time I moved to LA. It was an initiation into college life by creating an online profile to meet and communicate with new people. Since then, it has opened up so that everything is exposed through a scrolling feed and everyone has access to everyone else - we have become a generation addicted to knowing what others are doing. As an outlet where you are judged by the photos you were "tagged" in from the previous weekend Facebook is the perfect platform for obstruction of the vitality of image. And like every fad, there is a formula - certain things qualify you as 'hot' or 'not'. The raunch culture of today's young women is not confined to trashy reality TV or Girls Gone Wild. The same kind of behavior exists closer to home. Facebook was one of the first networks to expose normal girls on a very public scale and somehow it perpetuated the desire for girls to flaunt reckless and ridiculous behavior.
The Facebook group "30 Reasons Girls Should Call It A Night" is the perfect example, broadcasting girls' most extreme drunken debauchery. It currently has hundreds of thousands of members, forums and contributed photos. Each seems to glorify drunken blunders, vomiting, stripping, passing out in bizarre places, even urinating in public (Cute!). "30 Reasons" also holds contests for the most outrageous photos, rewarding the winner with cash prizes and bragging rights. "People are perfectly happy to post these sorts of pictures because they recognize that alcohol-related embarrassment will actually improve their social standing." Says Frank Soodeen, a spokesman for Alcohol Concern. The organization recently published a warning that Facebook was "symptomatic of the culture of acceptability around drunkenness". This 'culture of acceptability' is a product of visual availability, the desensitization of this wild behavior.
In addition to the consequences of an unfazed generation, the danger that accompanies the advertisement of a sexual, irresponsible persona should be enough to make anyone think twice about their content. These photos are accompanied by girls' full names, the schools they attend and links to their personal profiles. And because Facebook no longer requires a college email to register, it is open for anyone to discover and stalk female partiers. Even and especially between peers, sexual showmanship can pose a threat. Students surfing profiles between friends can easily identify the girls who make bad decisions, when they run into them at a fraternity party they could see them as an easy target.
And public scrutiny is not just limited to creepers. The new trend for employers, even universities, is to investigate the Facebook profiles of potential hires and students. If you are attached to liable photos, you could have a stigma that follows you your whole career. Just take a cue from celebrity culture, if there photos of you passed out, covered in foam and cheerios with giant penis doodles covering your body, someone will find them.
I know Facebook is just a social venue - but it's also our obsession. And if Facebook is our main source of representation (often replacing old fashioned first impressions and phone calls), shouldn't it be taken seriously? It's the way we treat the freedom, the opportunity to promote ourselves, that bothers me the most. Why is being the slutty party girl the norm now? Women often use Facebook as a place of power and self-promotion but choose do to it in a self-deprecating way. When we overvalue wild behavior as an exercise of 'femininity', it results in a warped view of what being a twenty-first century girl really is. Sometimes I wonder, as an artist and college student, how can I compete? I can only rely on my talent, my strong-will and my tiny chest. Despite it all I have faith that my generation can do more and hopefully someday we'll learn to sign out of this attitude.