05/25/2011 01:10 pm ET
  • Isabel Kaplan Novelist, Screenwriter, Harvard '12 grad; @isabelkaplan

Note to my generation: this exhibitionism has gone too far. On Facebook, we share personal details with hundreds (or thousands) of "friends." By simply logging on to my Facebook home page, I can see where you went last night, what group of friends you were with, what shirt you were wearing, and what you drunkenly wrote on that cute guy's Facebook wall. With Twitter, it's possible to sign up to receive a text message any time someone you are "following" posts a status update. Imagine--instantaneous text message notifications that friends or acquaintances are making a sandwich, baking brownies, or watching a funny video. On YouTube, you can post embarrassing videos of yourself for others to watch, ridicule, and comment on.

What next?

I would hardly call myself an exception. I use Facebook, I have a Twitter account (although I'm not clear on exactly how it works), and I watch videos on YouTube. As an eighteen-year-old college student in America, social networking sites are a very ingrained aspect of my social existence. Berger and Luckmann famously explain in "The Social Construction of Reality" the ways that social constructs become habitualized and institutionalized. We, the members of society, then perceive and accept the social construct as a sort of objective reality--as if it is something that simply exists as part of reality, forgetting that it was in fact created by us. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube--all of these are social constructs. My friends and I often have conversations about the absurdity of it, but we make no attempts to change any of it. It would be a huge, almost impossible, project. In fact, I'm not even sure how or where to start such a project.

If I didn't have a Facebook account, I would be missing out on receiving a shockingly large amount of information. Party invitations are increasingly sent out over Facebook; plans are made via posts on friends' digital "walls," and photos are posted from last night's party, or last year's prom, or from that one day when you looked so awful, and why on earth did so-and-so think it would be a good idea to post those pictures on the internet where anyone could see them? I understand what drives today's teenagers and young adults to grab on to these exhibitionist phenomena. Teenagers are endlessly seeking approval and validation, and feeling included and a part of a social world is of paramount importance. But there is such a thing as too much.

Recently, one of my friends showed me a video on YouTube called "Scarlet Takes a Tumble." The video, originally posted by Scarlet and since re-posted by numerous others, has had several million online views. Scarlet begins the minute and a half long video by singing a song and putting on a pair of wedge heels. She then, still singing, climbs up onto a small, round table. Then, in the moment that gives the video its name, Scarlet takes an accidental tumble. She takes a step forward, the table tips over, and Scarlet flips backwards on top of it. She lies on the floor for a while, grabbing her behind, seemingly unable to get up.

This video has become something of an online sensation. Many people have since posted "reaction videos" videotaping their responses to seeing Scarlet take a tumble. The video has entertainment value. There is, of course, the schadenfreude aspect. But what I don't understand is this: why did Scarlet post the video in the first place? Sure, it's funny, but it's also highly embarrassing. Scarlet has attracted a great deal of attention to herself, but very little, if any, of the attention is positive. Many of the comments on YouTube are insulting, unflattering or mean.

Does Scarlet really believe that any attention is good attention? And, moreover, is Scarlet's video an indication of a greater trend among today's youth? And, if this is the slope we're traveling on, what's next? I'm terrified to find out. What will happen when the members of my generation begin running for public office? Thanks to the internet, thanks to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and the like, the wealth of information is great. Those embarrassing moments of our youth will not be so easily forgotten.