Join 3,363 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Inside joke! Obscure meme reference!
June 5, 2013 8:13 AM   Subscribe

The Pew Internet And American Life Project has a new report out on Teens, Social Media, and Privacy. danah boyd comments:
My favorite finding of Pew’s is that 58% of teens cloak their messages either through inside jokes or other obscure references, with more older teens (62%) engaging in this practice than younger teens (46%).

via Bruce Schneier, Reason Hit & Run blog.
posted by the man of twists and turns (51 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
lolwut
posted by colie at 8:15 AM on June 5, 2013


Here's some research material for those of you about to make this meta and some context for those of us who don't sprechen zie franca.

From the Danah Boyd link:
Over the last few years, I’ve watched as teens have given up on controlling access to content. It’s too hard, too frustrating, and technology simply can’t fix the power issues. Instead, what they’ve been doing is focusing on controlling access to meaning. A comment might look like it means one thing, when in fact it means something quite different. By cloaking their accessible content, teens reclaim power over those who they know who are surveilling them. This practice is still only really emerging en masse, so I was delighted that Pew could put numbers to it. I should note that, as Instagram grows, I’m seeing more and more of this. A picture of a donut may not be about a donut. While adults worry about how teens’ demographic data might be used, teens are becoming much more savvy at finding ways to encode their content and achieve privacy in public.
Every generation believes it invented speaking in code?
posted by notyou at 8:23 AM on June 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


A picture of a donut may not be about a donut.

Fascinating.
posted by Big_B at 8:25 AM on June 5, 2013


In other words, being a teenager in America is pretty much like being anyone in China.
posted by Naberius at 8:26 AM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ceci n'est pas une pipe.
posted by Kabanos at 8:26 AM on June 5, 2013


So whats a donut?
posted by shothotbot at 8:30 AM on June 5, 2013


.
posted by orme at 8:31 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


shothotbot: "So whats a donut?"

$20, same as in town.

I'll show myself out
posted by jquinby at 8:36 AM on June 5, 2013 [22 favorites]


If I, a late 20s dude, am able to render my speech totally incomprehensible to someone who hasn't spent many hours in a gifquake of mayfly-lifespan memes then I am not surprised that people with something actually at stake doing the same.


Also let us not forget the time honored tradition of trolling adults trying to understand slang, that's just so deck man.
posted by The Whelk at 8:37 AM on June 5, 2013 [16 favorites]


Amda eenagersta
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 8:40 AM on June 5, 2013


To adults, services like Facebook that may seem “private” because you can use privacy tools, but they don’t feel that way to youth who feel like their privacy is invaded on a daily basis. (This, btw, is part of why teens feel like Twitter is more intimate than Facebook. And why you see data like Pew’s that show that teens on Facebook have, on average 300 friends while, on Twitter, they have 79 friends.)

I've heard other people say this, but I seriously don't get it. How is twitter more intimate? You're literally broadcasting your thoughts to the world. I guess that makes me an Old.

As for the in-joke/reference thing, that seems like it must be a standard stage of adolescent development. There was definitely time in my teens when my friends and I spoke in about 30% Simpsons references.
posted by lunasol at 8:41 AM on June 5, 2013


I for one welcome our new obscure reference overlords.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:45 AM on June 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


The most surprising thing to me about this is that the adults just caught on now. Even back in the caveman days of the early 80s we had codes and obscure references to ensure that our parents didn't overhear something that we didn't want them to hear. I remember us referring to the beach as "The Fixx," thereby hopefully ensuring that our parents didn't know where to find us on a Friday night.
posted by COD at 8:46 AM on June 5, 2013


You know what I heard about Roger? Guy's a midnight golfer.
posted by usonian at 8:47 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure that this is necessarily a new thing or a cloaking strategy. My roommate's girlfriend used to complain that he and I did this, but it's just that our language was so thoroughly linked to video games and science fiction novels that we were the geek equivalent of Navajo code talkers.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:52 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


These internet studies (and internet experts in general) always remind me of Steve Buscemi on 30 Rock. And I'm, like, 100.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:57 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


You spelled danah boyd wrong, and we all know where that leads.
posted by Brak at 8:57 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I must say I was sorely disappointed in the findings of the Pew Internet and American Life Project. I was expecting results more along the lines of this.
pew pew pew!
That said, I cannot wait for the political mud slinging in which future candidates scramble to explain away their teenaged, angst ridden facebook posts and/or gratuitous partying bong pics.
posted by Debaser626 at 8:59 AM on June 5, 2013


How is twitter more intimate? You're literally broadcasting your thoughts to the world.

Your mom and grandma aren't on Twitter.
posted by Diablevert at 9:00 AM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Doesn't Robert Klein have a routine about having the exact same argument with his son that he had with his father " what is that? Some kind of code!?"
posted by The Whelk at 9:00 AM on June 5, 2013


General consensus, Facebook is for grandparents.
posted by The Whelk at 9:01 AM on June 5, 2013


I don't understand how to interpret the results in the Pew link, since there's no comparison group external to teens. 2006, the date of the last measured teen results given, was when Facebook got under way. It stands to reason that everyone posts more about themselves today than they did seven years ago.

Makes those results less interesting to me.
posted by Brak at 9:06 AM on June 5, 2013


I do this with my friends, but mostly it's Big Lebowski references. Been this way for 20 years.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:07 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kadir beneath Mo Moteh. Kiteo, his eyes closed? Shaka, when the walls fell!
posted by nicepersonality at 9:13 AM on June 5, 2013 [14 favorites]


A picture of a donut may not be about a donut.

Wake up, gramps, it's all about cronuts these days.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:16 AM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I remember us referring to the beach as "The Fixx," thereby hopefully ensuring that our parents didn't know where to find us on a Friday night.
posted by COD at 11:46 AM on June 5


Because of the horse falling down there?
posted by Mchelly at 9:16 AM on June 5, 2013


Marvy. Fab. Far out.
posted by mrgoat at 9:17 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Horace Rumpole: "I for one welcome our new obscure reference overlords."

Wouldn't they technically be our new obscure reference underlords?
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 9:30 AM on June 5, 2013


The point of boyd's work is not that teens speaking in code is new, but rather that the strategic use of this code on *public* social media as an explicit privacy management technique is new(er). Yeah, just like the rest of you my friends had in-jokes, code, etc. when I was a teenager, but what we did not have (thank god) was social media. We hung out in physical spaces (the Burger King parking lot, as it happens), and crucially, there were almost never any adults (i.e. parents) surveilling and recording us. If my friends and I wanted to keep our conversations private, we could go in somebody's bedroom and shut the door.

The upshot of this research is that teens are basically giving up on metaphorically "shutting the door" in their social media spaces (by manipulating privacy settings), and are instead relying entirely on managing meaning to preserve a sense of privacy.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:32 AM on June 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


Even back in the caveman days of the early 80s we had codes and obscure references... I remember us referring to the beach as "The Fixx"
posted by COD at 11:46 AM on June 5


COD, also back in the 80s, we referred to kegs as "pods." So, of course, those who partook were referred to as "the pod people." This was at a Catholic high school, and allowed for open discussion of weekend planning in front of the faculty. And references to "pods" even made their way into the yearbook (of course). Good times.

And, man, I still listen to The Fixx now and then; "Reach the Beach" was a good record, though I prefer "Shuttered Room"...
posted by fikri at 9:38 AM on June 5, 2013


And, man, I still listen to The Fixx now and then; "Reach the Beach" was a good record, though I prefer "Shuttered Room"...

It must have been one of my friends that came up with that reference because I was a teenage metal head and I'm pretty sure I never owned a Fixx record.
posted by COD at 9:41 AM on June 5, 2013


How is twitter more intimate? You're literally broadcasting your thoughts to the world.

Your mom and grandma aren't on Twitter.


But they can be linked to it. Whereas that's hard to do for a hallway conversation at school.
posted by DU at 9:41 AM on June 5, 2013


I don't understand how to interpret the results in the Pew link, since there's no comparison group external to teens. 2006, the date of the last measured teen results given, was when Facebook got under way. It stands to reason that everyone posts more about themselves today than they did seven years ago.

There is plenty of other Pew research on teens and technology, though they don't all necessarily focus on privacy. They're just using 2006 as a comparison probably because that's when they asked about what teens posted on social media (and there were plenty of teens on MySpace at that time).

I'm not sure why it stands to reason that people post more about themselves, necessarily. You could also make the case that as people's awareness of online tracking grows, they would post less. There is definitely research on college students that shows that they become more cautious about what they post, or "scrub" their social media profiles, as they get closer to graduation (and job hunting).
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:44 AM on June 5, 2013


Back in the day we used Latin. I'mway anway oldsterway
posted by srboisvert at 9:47 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Obligatory xkcd
posted by koucha at 9:59 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


And references to "pods" even made their way into the yearbook (of course). Good times.

A club in my high school took out a full page in the yearbook for a photo collage, as many other clubs did. Next to the photo of one of the guys holding a bottle of Cristal, there was also a cropped photo of a dilated pupil and the lowercase letter 'e' directly under it.
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 10:03 AM on June 5, 2013


The big thing in my high school was backwards talk. Very inventive. So, for instance, the place to go drink at night was the Quarries, which was also called the Qs, which got backwardsed into "the yukes."
posted by lunasol at 10:32 AM on June 5, 2013


But they can be linked to it. Whereas that's hard to do for a hallway conversation at school.

Well, this is just my gut feeling, but my experience with twitter has been that there's basically two somewhat overlapping groups of people using it: people who have something to promote (celebs, journos, marketers, businesses, artists) and people who use it for chit-chat with a select group of friends. Like a giant gchat that you can spice up by retweeting links and amusing comments by professional funny people.

The latter group skews younger and more tech-savvy, for now. At this point, pretty much _everybody_ is on Facebook, and there's a sense that it is definitely not okay to snub people you have a real-life connection to by not friending them on there. Twitter doesn't have that. On Twitter it's much more acceptable to not reciprocally follow someone. The majority of people still go by some form of pseudonym on Twitter, and I think more and more people use it primarily through their phone. And it's dead easy to ditch a twitter identity and start a new account. So I think one's twitter identity would be a lot easier to hide from one's parents, as a teen, and that while it is _possible_ for someone who knows you and wants to get you in trouble to forward a tweet to your folks the likelihood that your parents will be able to track tweets down themselves is much less.
posted by Diablevert at 10:38 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


All this way in the thread and no mention of beans, yet? I am disappoint.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:39 AM on June 5, 2013


fuller is subtweeting about all of you. You'll have to read between the line.
posted by jfuller at 10:45 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


. . .
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:05 AM on June 5, 2013


Wouldn't they technically be our new obscure reference underlords?

A noble spirit embiggens the smallest lords.
posted by Copronymus at 11:21 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also from Danah Boyd's write up,

Most teens aren’t worried about strangers; they’re worried about getting in trouble.

I'm sure teens cope. And manage. But man, when I look at the world I'm REALLY glad I grew up in the 80s. stay off my grass
posted by DigDoug at 11:32 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


In other words, being a teenager in America is pretty much like being anyone in China.

Families containing minors are the original totalitarian regimes. There's a reason Orwell named his dictator Big Brother.
posted by acb at 1:36 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is this where I go to complain about a certain corporation that issues me a paycheck writing like this on Twitter and thinking they're, I don't know, cool, hip, with it, hot?

"Time 4 u to no that this is the way 2 go!"
posted by etaoin at 4:49 PM on June 5, 2013


Funny stuff. The kids in Pompeii drawing graffiti had their own graphic jargon, as did the swingers and flappers of the 20s-30 and the greasers of teh 60s. Keeping 'rents in the dark is as old as caves.
posted by Twang at 4:55 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


i never got that. i always figured that if i put myself out online nakedly from the time i was 16 i'd eventually find people on my wavelenght
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:07 PM on June 5, 2013


This is for when you already have certain people on your wavelength, and you don't want them to be.
posted by forgetful snow at 3:56 AM on June 6, 2013


/sigh... apparently there are still websites that manually moderate EVERYTHING.
Blue_Villain
Your comment is awaiting moderation.
May 23rd, 2013 at 8:42 am
I’m not sure I’d consider them “interesting” ideas, especially when you consider that kids have been using cryptic language around their parents for longer than I’ve been around.
"No way", you might say. Way. That’s far out, isn’t it? It’s not like the internet has recently given young people the ability to encode their language, as much as it’s given them a new method to do it with. What is interesting is how the “inside joke” has exploded and transformed into memes.

So don’t be an L7 square and get with the program. Check out where the cool kids are hanging out, and learn some of their memes. Heck, you can even sing a verse or two from Wil Smiths iconic song about lack of inter-generational communications if you want, because every generation creates a new version of their language. Know what I mean dude (or should I say dude-ette?).
posted by Blue_Villain at 6:26 AM on June 6, 2013


In other words, being a teenager in America is pretty much like being anyone in China.

How Memes Became the Best Weapon Against Chinese Internet Censorship
posted by homunculus at 6:36 PM on June 6, 2013


lunasol: "How is twitter more intimate? You're literally broadcasting your thoughts to the world.

Diablevert: Your mom and grandma aren't on Twitter."

No, but your great-grandma (or great-great-grandma) might be.

Part of it, I think, is that Twitter has the memory of a fruit fly. Although it's still possible to read someone's past tweets by paging back through them, it's not possible to search more than a few days back. That may contribute to a feeling that unless someone's paying attention relatively close to real-time, they're unlikely to dig up past evidence against one. Or so I surmise (she said, waving her hands in the air).
posted by Lexica at 10:35 PM on June 8, 2013


« Older People will believe anything if you offer them fre...  |  CSA Astronaut Chris Hadfield d... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments