“Who is doing what for whom, and to what end?”

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In today’s media and ‘self’ focused world, technology has placed each of us at the center of our own hyper-connected universe, able to wield extraordinary influence across millions when it comes to sharing likes and dislikes. But are we merely pawns in a game of stealth marketing and exploited for that influence? Or willing participants and savvy players, using the opportunity to self-promote and build our own audiences?

Last year PBS aired a documentary by Douglas Rushkoff called Generation Like, in which he followed several ordinary American teenagers in a bid to explore the complicated relationship between young consumers and the big-name brands that are constantly working to target them. What he learned surprised him…

“For kids today, you are what you like. We didn’t find a generation of rebellious teens, struggling to evade the ever-present pull of marketing. We found quite the opposite: a generation of teens looking for ways to participate in the process.”

The need to create community and connect for a lot of youth has shifted online, but some argue there is a flip side to sharing so much of ourselves. In a cautionary tale, Alissa Quart, journalist and author of several books on youth culture has said, “the dark side is that they’re creating a lot of data that is being taken from them that they’re not profiting from. They’re creating a trail of identifying marks for their future employers or health insurers that they don’t necessarily have control over. They’re not just buying [or advocating for] stuff; they’re leaving a trail of who they were when they were 15 for the rest of time, for every corporation and every employer that they’ll ever come across.”

Image: PBS

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