Teens use social media to fuel rebellious spirit


Kylie Yamada, Feature Editor

James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause.” Danny Zuko in “Grease.” Dallas Winston in “The Outsiders.” For decades, characters and celebrities similar to these have been the image conjured up for the words “teen rebellion.”

The concept of a “teenager” really began in the ’20s, though the word itself was not created until later. Post-World War I, there was a period of prosperity in the United States and some affluent teenagers chose to spend their time away from parents. The “flappers” — young women who would wear shorter dresses and defy societal norms — rebelled against society’s view of women, which was still influenced by the early 1910s ideal of women as maternal and modest beings.

As advertisers caught on to the new buying power of teens, they began to craft their marketing toward the teenage demographic. The word “teen-ager” (originally hyphenated) was likely created in either “Popular Science Monthly” or “LIFE Magazine” to describe the cultural shift.

The trend continued into the ’50s and ’60s, wherein teens started to have even more free time away from their family and spent more time with their friends. It’s around this decade that the “greaser” style and image was created. Teens of the mid-20th century were rebelling against society’s standards, their parents’ strict rules, and even the politicians of the age. In the ’60s, college students organized several anti-war protests against the Vietnam War.

Social media has arguably been the biggest change, as teenagers now have the capability to communicate more efficiently with each other now and coordinate activities. Other teenagers use social media to express their political views, often rebelling against their parents’ opinions.

Similar to how the flappers defied strict social norms, some teenage girls protest dress code today through deliberately defying the guidelines. One high school in South Carolina even had girls show up to school with red A’s on their shirts and the words “Not a Distraction,” a reference to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.”

Other teens can use Twitter or Snapchat to spread videos or stories of their friends acting out or to spread news of a party, sometimes encouraging drinking with acronyms such as “BYOB” — Bring Your Own Booze. Social media is a place for them to communicate in a way that is separate from their parents, allowing them to post videos of themselves acting out and defying school or parental rules, which can encourage or inspire others to imitate similar behavior.

“Social media is the main vantage point of where parties are really advertised,” junior Rajan Nathaniel said.

Teachers have also noted changes in students’ behavior in the past 20 years of students’ behavior.

“Foul language is much more common,” social science teacher Lana Gentry said. “I used to never hear the ‘f-word.’ Maybe guys out in the hallways, but never in the classroom.”

In some ways, teens act out in the same ways as before.

“The rebellion is exactly the same, the way they do it is differently,” Conflict Mediation teacher Lisa Deeter said. “And it goes back to social media; they have a platform to either act out in front of thousands of people or push the boundaries in front of thousands of people, but the rebellion is the same.”

Teen rebels in the past had a clear, defined image. There were the flappers, the greasers, the members of various gangs. However, teenagers of many types have rebellious tendencies, partially because of their biology. Teens’ frontal lobes haven’t finished developing, and so their decision-making skills are relatively poor.

If biology has any say in it, then people can always be certain that teenagers will never be completely obedient, regardless of their methods.