Five things you can actually learn from #followateen

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Credit: Corbis / Blend Images / LWA / Dann Tardif

If you want to take a look at Generation Overshare, there’s no better place to do it than #followateen, one of those internet things that’s grown over the past month to take on a life of its own. With #followateen, adults are picking random teenagers to follow on Twitter and then reporting back on what “their teens” are up to.

This isn’t a new idea, but it was revitalized by Buzzfeed’s Katie Notopoulos in early April, who suggested people pick a teen and find out what kids are up to on Twitter these days. The hashtag took off, and if you haven’t searched for the results recently, you should.

(Sometimes the teens even catch on.)

Aside from making fun of random teenagers, the growth of the hashtag can actually teach us a good deal about teens, social media, and our weird relationships with the internet. Here are five things I actually learned from #followateen:

Life is a lot harder for teenagers in 2013

When Timeline came out last year, I went back and deleted a lot of old wall posts, and I was shocked by the volume of bad photos and inane thoughts my friends and I posted. (i.e., “Do you have a copy of the math homework?” or “OMG lacrosse practice was so hard today.”) At the time, I thought that teenagers had probably learned from my generation’s early adoption and over-sharing, and that today’s teens had stopped posting as many inane, personal moments online. Surely they’d come to realize that everything they post on the internet is public and searchable forever.

Hahahaha. No.

Scrolling through posts from teens on Twitter this week, it became clear that they have not stopped posting personal, intimate details of their lives online for anyone to search, and if anything, they’re posting even more. As someone who went through high school missing one of my front teeth (don’t ask), I cringe for the future selves of these teens who will wish they’d posted a little less for the public to see. And in my (pretty recent) day, we didn’t even have Instagram or Tumblr.

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