Wednesday, 20 November 2013

A Fashion Break: BRB I'm Snatch Chatting on MSN

I recently joined Snap Chat. Do you know what, it's not half bad. It's rather nice for one's artistic integrity (read: ego) to know for sure that your nearest and dearest will absolutely see the photo of your M&S meal deal sandwich, rather than it getting lost in your Instagram feed.

Still, it took me a while to get on-board because a) whilst I do work in social media, I'm always cautious of a newcomer and b) I thought it was what the kids used to send pictures of their private parts to each other. I ain't got no time for that.

Youth and technology though, 'eh? This takes me back to 2001 when social media was barely that, but we (the kids of my generation) were getting all emo on MySpace, happy slapping on Bebo and, most importantly, being well cool on MSN Messenger, the now defunct instant messaging service from Microsoft. MSN was sensational. Remember the nudges, the emojis, the rubber duck profile picture? Most of all remember the uncensored freedom? 

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We all sat in our rooms on MSN Messenger, "talking to friends from school," whilst our parents were confusedly trying to fit new toner into the fax machine, wondering what ever happened to the pen and paper. Well Ma and Pa, I'll tell you what happened to the pen and paper, it didn't let me webcam with those bi-curious boys in Egypt reaching out to (comparatively) cosmopolitan gay boys in the south west of England, (me).
MSN Messenger was a way of life for teenagers in the early Naughties and it become the first incarnation of an altogether new 'right of passage', one exclusive to my generation and those subsequent; the right of passage into uncensored, uninhibited, unrestricted and mostly unsavoury digital communication with friends (and strangers) that parents or guardians can't totally control. Yeah sure, there was always that weird kid whose Mum made him read rather than explore the internet, but generally our parents were clueless. After all, paedophiles were still in playgrounds, the Daily Mail hadn't cottoned onto the fact that they were grooming kids online too.

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Morgan Saylor plays Dana in Homeland, a young girl in the throng of a passionate romance that is steadily fuelled by provocative picture messaging.

When I think back to the uninhibited freedom and the exposure to possible dangers that MSN, a pretty bog-standard IM service, gave me, I shudder to think what the kids of today are exposed to. Don't get me wrong, I'm no prude, as a gay boy growing up in the middle of nowhere, the internet was the only hope in hell I had of coming to terms with myself, but I still can't help but wonder, what is too much freedom at an early age? Does social media pose more risks than it grants privileges, are we too uneducated in the ways and workings of the internet in our teenage years to be trusted not to snap a picture of our naughty bits and send it to that way-totally-hot-boy who asked? Is technology too far advanced for our morals and understanding to catch-up at that point?

I don't know the answer and I don't think we will ever know unless, perhaps, we educate our kids about sex, exploitation, danger, sexuality and the internet. Until we can talk frankly to children about what posting nude photos of themselves on Snap Chat can mean for them, the consquences of putting themselves and their bodies in the line of fire from faceless strangers within the digital sphere, we will have generations of teenagers growing into young adults who wished, if only in a small way, that they'd helped their Mum with the damn fax machine rather than replying to that age old pick-up line, "ASL?".