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Introduction and Definitions
Adolescence is a very anxious and uncertain time in the lives of many youngsters in nearly all civilizations of the world. Physically, youngsters getting initiated into this important stage of individual development change rapidly and uncontrollably, exiting the comfortable and reassuring life of childhood forever.
Mentally, individuals start to gain superior consciousness of the world around them, and no longer want to be referred to as children. However, society denies individuals in this developmental phase the authority and independence of adulthood not withstanding the fact that they covet to be referred to as adults. But adolescents are a resilient lot, and would stop at nothing to redefine themselves as adults and assert their own independence (Gutgesell & Payne, 2004, para. 8).
In the redefinition process, which may entail some rebellion and open disregard of authority, the youngsters get sucked up into various forms of popular cultures that unequivocally promises to offer them the comfort they dearly lack from mainstream society. It is the purpose of this research paper to critically evaluate the popular culture of blogging among adolescents with the premise that it reinforces pro-social activities and self esteem among the teenagers.
According to Davis and McGrail (2009), blogging can be described as a “…venue for writing in which an author or group of authors post their work to web pages that display their posts in reverse chronological sequence” (p. 74). Blogs can be easily accessed by any individual with an internet connection, and therefore are able to achieve a worldwide audience.
In most instances, blogs are interactive in nature as readers can post their comments or connect to other blogs of their preference. Stoke (2007) defines a blog as a frequent, sequential publication of a mixture of an individual’s personal thoughts and life experiences on the one hand and the happenings and experiences achieved from the web on the other. It is a flexible platform that is consistently used for sharing and communication through the engagement of people and new technology.
Popular culture has no single universally accepted definition. The concept is both elusive and unpredictable as no expert or individual can forecast when an unanticipated occurrence will capture global attention (Fishwick, 1999, p. 8). For instance, no one in the eighties could have imagined that web logging could become a popular culture among the youth at the turn of the century.
In principle, however, popular culture is a cultural and psychological phenomenon that simply signifies a universally accepted group of practices, customs, lifestyles, and patterns of behaviour (Storey, 2006, p. 12).
The practices are prevalent within a given population, defining the lifestyles, tastes, and preferences of members. It is the totality of ideas, inclinations, values, attitudes, and other experiences that are considered preferred per an unofficial agreement inside the mainstream of any given culture.
Popular culture is manifested in inclinations and recognition or rejection of attributes in such various themes as clothing styles, music preferences, cooking, literature and poetry, consumption patterns, film, and blogging. Each of these themes has its own content and characteristics.
The Content and Characteristics of Blogging
Blogging is multidisciplinary, multicultural and multifaceted in nature. It should be remembered that the World Wide Web is a super highway of information and knowledge that know now borders in terms of geographical, cultural, social, and psychological orientations. As such, it is always difficult to limit the content of web logging to one particular perspective (Stoke, 2007, p. 174).
However, some Bloggers are interested in sharing their personal experiences, inspirational ideas, or knowledge about some common phenomena with others over the internet. Indeed, it is safe to argue that such Bloggers interested in social networking activities make up the largest proportion of blogs transmitted over the internet. The content of a blogging site may be as simple as an individual’s personal diary for the week, or his preferences and dislikes when it comes to eating, travelling, socializing, and others.
However, blogging entails much more than the above. According to Fishwick (1999), blogging is also about generating communities that shares important insights, resources, news, personal philosophies, and stories. It entails generating resilient networks where individuals, especially the youth, can share their problems, experiences, champion causes, and develop the space for innovation. Blogs have been used as reflective journals for an individual’s professional practice or social life. Still, blogging can be a valuable apparatus of sharing information at a local level.
However, some blogging sites are socially and psychologically harmful to the developing mind of adolescents as they deal with sexually explicit content and gang cultures. Overall, the features and content presented by blogging facilitates social networking and society building (Davies & McGrail, 2009, p. 75).
The characteristics of blogging as a form of popular culture are many and wide-ranging. First, successful bloggers must be knowledgeable and organized as they are always expected to have ready solutions to unanticipated situations. If the blogger is interested in social networking, he must have a sociable and outgoing character, and must view other people as sources of inspiration, knowledge and fresh ideas rather than as competitors (Stoke, 2007, p. 176).
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Second, successful blogs are “characterized by a reverse chronological diary-like format, often produced by a single author, and intimately expressive of the author’s thoughts and expressions” (McCusker, 2008, para. 1).
A popular culture must enjoy a large, and sometimes hysterical mass following. For blogs to qualify as a form of popular culture, bloggers and their followers must have the ability to communicate with each other through an interactive format. In this respective, many blogging sites have an interactive section where readers can post their comments, suggestions, or questions.
The willingness and pleasure of bloggers to share their own knowledge, thoughts and experiences with others forms another significant characteristic of blogging. Also, for blogs to be able to influence individuals in the form of a popular culture, bloggers must have the capacity of accessing vital information from a number of valid sources everyday (Fishwick, 1999, p. 28).
In blogging, there exists a universally accepted code of behaviour, vocabulary, and peculiar way of writing posts. In most occasions, this is used as a basis of self identity and belonging. Lastly, the time factor is essential in the blogging culture as bloggers end up consuming large portions of their leisure and sleep time attempting to fulfil their irresistible desire to share with other individuals using conventional online platforms.
How Blogging Culture Fulfil Adolescent’s Psychological Needs
As already mentioned, the adolescence period is mostly characterized by instability and anxiety. It is a critical phase of development where an individual is neither a child nor an adult (Hamburg & Takanishi, 1989, p. 825). During this phase, many teenagers identify with various social-cultural experiences that act to sooth their anxieties.
Most individuals experience a complete shift in their media and socio-cultural preferences during adolescence. It is during this phase that individuals identify with experiences and events such as video games, reading novels and newspapers, going to concerts, gang culture, and, most lately, blogging culture.
As such, it can be vehemently argued that blogging fulfil the psychological needs of adolescents as it assists in cooling and soothing their anxieties and curiosities in life, which could prove disastrous if the teenagers are left on their own. In many instances, the teenagers are able to find answers about the changes happening in their bodies in the blogs.
Adolescents develop the capacity to surmount challenging situations in life through a mixture of external support networks and inner strengths. Positive blogging is known to contribute considerably to growth in flexible coping mechanisms and problem solving skills among the youth (Steinebach & Steinebach, 2009, p. 27).
In some cases during the developmental phase of adolescence, the teenagers are unable to open up even to the closest members of the family. They put their peers and social networks ahead of everything else in the social setting, and sometimes tend to disregard parental authority and advice.
In such circumstances, positive blogs come in handy to assist the individual to safely cope with the challenging moments. Most blogging sites dealing with adolescents are designed to reinforce supportive social bonds, capability, self-efficiency, and self-worth, ultimately encouraging resilience (Steinebach & Steinebach, 2009, p. 27).
Many adolescents become intrinsically motivated by engaging in blogging since it is an experience that they enjoy from within. Intrinsic motivation greatly assists the teenagers in enhancing their competence and self-determination. According to Arnone, Reynolds & Marshall (2009), “…Intrinsic motivation occurs when an individual engages in a particular task or behavior because it is enjoyable and satisfying in itself” (p. 117).
Most adolescents find the blogging culture deeply enjoyable and satisfying, and therefore are likely to benefit from intrinsic motivation. According to the authors, intrinsic motivation dwells within the individual, but the socio-cultural environment and experiences such as web logging and other popular cultures plays a significant function in supporting the teenagers’ feelings of self-determination, self-worth, and motivation.
It can be vehemently argued that blogging satisfies the psychological needs of adolescents in terms of friendship and an expansive social network without necessarily exposing them to the negative influences of covert peer pressure. Peers are known to have a commanding daily influence on the teenager’s healthy and unhealthy habits (Gutgesell & Payne, 2004, para. 11).
According to the authors, alcohol and drug use are encountered among teenagers who make physical contact. In situations where the peers make physical contact, such influence may go beyond substance abuse to other risk-taking actions such irresponsible sex.
For instance, peers who disrespect the significance of education may try to endorse negative school attitudes such as absenteeism or failure among unsuspecting adolescents. However, the situation changes when the social interaction is done online via blogging sites.
The chances of negatively influencing behavior where no physical contact is made are indeed minimal compared to when adolescents have the capacity to meet their peers face-to-face. In this respective, the blogging culture is able to meet the adolescent’s psychological needs of friendship and companionship without necessarily having to be negatively influenced through physical peer pressure.
The adolescence phase of individual development is often characterized by instances of delinquency and behavioral problems. However, systematic studies have revealed a correlation between the blogging culture and pro-social behavior, attitudes, and feelings of self-worth. The youth, unable to communicate their views and experiences, have leaned towards delinquent behavior. Systematic studies reveal that adolescence’ delinquent behavior is directly related to lack of communication, commitment, and attention (Fishwick, 1999, p. 12).
These functions are better handled by the blogging culture due to the fact that communication in the culture is open to all the adolescents. As already mentioned, adolescence is a period of unparalleled change, whereby teenagers experience spasms of exhilarated joy, tumbling despair, frozen apathy, and devastating experiences.
As such, teenagers tend to lean towards delinquent behavior. However, some popular cultures such as blogging have been viewed as a means of letting the teenagers expend the steam that is associated with the above named experiences. Through sharing in online blogs, the teenagers are able to comprehend about their experiences in an understandable and consoling manner.
Evaluation of Blogging Culture
The use of blogs as a popular culture among the teenagers is bound to grow in the future. According to experts, blogs have penetrated the lifestyles and value systems of the teenagers as they seem to have ready answers to the questions so frequently asked in adolescence (Fishwick, 1999, p. 32). With the increasing penetration of technology in many parts of the world, the blogging culture is bound to increase in popularity among the teenagers.
Indeed, the landscape of blogging has extensively grown in the 21st Century from a social networking tool to a business oriented mechanism (Currid, 2003, para. 1). The adolescents, in particular, have benefited extensively from this culture since it has offered ready answers to their queries and anxieties during this challenging moment of individual development.
Answers to questions that the adolescents cannot direct to any specific member of the family are readily found in the web logs. What’s more, the blogging culture offers the anonymity of the subjects in a way that physical contact cannot guarantee. For adolescents, such kind of anonymity is always welcome.
The capacity to meet an individual’s psychological needs is viewed as an important motivator to group behavior (Shelaron & Bettencourt, 2002, p. 25).
Adolescents leans more towards deviant behavior if their psychological needs are unsatisfactorily met. As such, it should be the function of society to encourage the teenagers to link more with blogging sites as a means of socializing and finding ready answers to their problems and anxieties.
Adolescents need to be offered a chance to develop a healthy psychological disposition. The blogging culture is viewed by experts as one of the techniques that individuals can use to achieve significant developmental functions such as individuation, self-worth, and identity development processes (Goya, 2009, p. 3).
All in all, it is important to recognize adolescence as an important phase of individual development whereby individuals experience challenging situations that cannot be explained by even the closest members of the family. However, positive blogging culture has been found to enable the youth develop a capacity to deal with the most challenging situations in life through an assortment of external social support networks and individual inner strengths (Boniel-Nissam & Barak, 2009).
Indeed, “blogging has now become one of the most widely accepted forms of communication and impacts innumerable facets of our lives” (Gray, 2005, p.1). Through blogging, adolescents are able to link up with millions of other individuals who shares the same experiences and challenges, and who want to lead a positive life. In this perspective, the popular culture of blogging reinforces pro-social activities and self-esteem among the teenagers.
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