MTV True Life
I thought MTV True Life was a really interesting documentary about three girls living a completely different life online. To quote Professor Shayla Thiel Stern in “Instant Identity: Adolescent Girls and the World of Instant Messaging”, on the teenage girls use of technology, its important “to adolescents that they maintain a sense of power in their uses of new media technology” (56). The three girls in the MTV documentary all used new media to empower them whether it be to get over stage fright, body image or social anxiety. I wonder if new technology is making it impossible to get over fears that one is presented with in the real world. Perhaps that new media is used too often as a scapegoat to real life issues that people actual regress more than they would if they didn’t have access to technology. Maybe the answer to these three girls problems is to take away or limit there computer usage, forcing them to participate more in the real world.
The girls in the documentary were Judy—who experiences social anxiety, Amy—who experiences stage freight, and Malarie—who has social anxiety and body image issues. Judy created a site that has pornographic images of herself, some of which the user has to pay her to see. Judy has one close friend in life but rarely hangs out with him in public and around other people she doesn’t know. Judy is convinced to go bowling with him and his friends and completely freaks out. Her social anxiety creates a personality that comes off as very rude. She can’t even bowl without being embarrassed so she just leaves. I felt really bad for her and I feel like she uses the Internet as a scapegoat to avoid going out in public. She gets positive attention online and why would she ever what to try to live in the real world. The real world takes away her power and puts her at risk to negative social experiences.
Amy, a talented musician, experiences stage freight in real life but is a music celebrity on Second Life, the only place she will perform. When she attempts to perform in public her fear gets the best of her and she feels nauseous and panics. I think Amy realizes more than Judy that she can’t keep relying on Second Life if she wants to continue following her dream of being a musician. However, Amy needs friendly support in order to become comfortable in a public sphere. For instance it would be helpful if she performed a concert just for her family, then slowly introduce friends at future performances and then friends of friends.
Malarie also experiences social anxiety as well as body image issues. Her new media scapegoat is IM where she is able to sexually interact with males in a comfortable and safe environment. Malarie is able to control her identity and mold it to make her desirable to the other chatter. She will only show her face or her breasts but nothing else to let on that she is overweight. When Malarie told her friend about her online activities, her friend was very upset and concerned. Unless Malarie gets off the computer and starts meeting guys in real life she won’t improve. She won’t become comfortable. Maybe it would help if she got a hobby or activity that could be done with a group of people. Or, just go out with her girl friends. I mean I know her friends tried to take her out and it was hard for her but they have to keep doing that to get her off the computer.
I was shocked after watching this documentary and felt really bad for the girls. I have experienced a shyness and felt vulnerable in social situations but the more you are forced to interact in social situations the more comfortable you feel. You have to force yourself and feel awkward and afraid before you get comfortable. These girls are addicted to their fake life and identity that only exists online and they will keep using technology as a scapegoat unless they are forced out of it. I know it won’t be easy for them to escape this addiction, it could even be impossible (I have no idea), but if I knew these girls in real life I would be extremely worried and concerned about their reliance on new media. I hope they are able to get help.