Tag Archives: Gossip

Pop Culture Invades Media Sources

Alot of things were happening on Sunday September 13, 2009. Iranian rebels were being slaughtered in Tehran, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was finalizing a purchase of nuclear missiles from Russia, and thousands of American citizens rallied in Washington DC, protesting health care reforms. Oh yeah, and Kanye West stole the microphone from Taylor Swift at the Video Music Awards.

Come Monday morning, West’s rude interruption was talked about all over the USF campus. Some people were enraged, others were amused, even the people who had never listened to either artist’s music knew all about the scandal. Clearly, our passion for news is there, but is it misdirected? Whenever I used to pull out my cell phone or get on the computer around my grandfather, he would make comments about how “kids these days are so high-tech” and imply that our abundance of media forms are distancing us from reality. I used to laugh off his little quips, but now, several years after his death, I’m starting to think he made a valid point.

It’s safe to say that, collectively, college students across the nation have the most access to media outlets and most likely use media more than other generations. But if this is the case, why do we often choose to tune into gossip about celebrities, rather than investigating the conflicts in Iran, Venezuela, and even our own capital? My grandfather, and much of his generation, would claim that younger generations are simply disinterested in news or don’t care about the happenings in other parts of the world. This simply is not true.

Particularly at Jesuits schools like USF, the focus of our college education is based on applying academic concepts to better the world around us. Students are probably at the point in their lives when they are learning the most about politics, foreign wars, and international diplomacy. Yet Kanye West dominates our breakfast table conversations. This is not a product of apathy, nor does it reflect the priorities or beliefs of the general student body. This simply reflects the continuously increasing role of mass media in our lives.

When we turn on the TV, log on to Facebook, or listen to the radio, we are bombarded with pop culture. The media, as a whole, has figured out the best way to rope us in. My grandfather was right; media does distance us from reality. Turning on a news station generally results in finding out about negative things, from conflict in the Middle East to school shootings, the news seldom reports occurrences that make the audience feel particularly good. When they hear about the genocide in Sudan, it’s hard for the average college student to relate to poverty, starvation, or civil war. This is not to say that younger generations don’t care, but it seems that often times we distance ourselves from the conflicts of reality because the media offers us an alternative reality.

When we see Taylor Swift on stage, embarrassed by Kanye West, we can automatically relate to her. Most people have been embarrassed in public before and the media latches on to that notion, building our relationship with Taylor Swift. Our ability to relate to her emotionally makes this pop-cultural reality very real and with so many media outlets, it’s nearly impossible to avoid exposure to the media’s emotional ploy. As a result, we know that global issues are important, but the media ties up all our emotions, distracting us from actual reality.

Our passion is there, our interest in world affairs is great, and our desire to gain more knowledge about the surrounding world is growing. The media, however, has become omnipresent, posing a roadblock between reality and our generation. Older generations are quick to assume college students’ apathy when, really, a flawed system of media coverage is more to blame. For now, Kanye West still infiltrates our every day conversation, but hopefully in time, society will stray from the lure of mass media and pop culture will become only a blip on the radar of world affairs.

Juicy Campus

What is JuicyCampus.com? It’s a virtual Burn Book. Those of you familiar with the movie Mean Girls (and I expect there are many) know exactly what I’m talking about. In the film, a group of girls, led by unscrupulous queen bee Regina George, create an encyclopedia of gossip and slander called the Burn Book, whose hot pink cover and cutesy collage work conceal much darker inner workings. A quick search of “Burn Book” on Google turns up instructions on how to create your very own rumor mill record book, along with suggestions on where to conceal such a liability. However, you may not want to run down to the nearest craft store just yet.  There is really no need for you and your BFFs to go scrapbook crazy now that USF is featured on JuicyCampus.com.
The website works much like any other message board, with one glaring exception. Whereas most sites that allow commenting require users to identity themselves, Juicy Campus does not. This is really the central concept of the site: without any means by which to be held accountable, posters can sling virtual mud left and right to their heart’s content. And now that Juicy Campus fever seems to have seized our campus, some of the kids at Social Justice U. are proving to be just as vile as Regina George herself.
Where have USF students chimed in the most? On a thread entitled “if you could [word removed] slap 2 people at USF…” Other popular threads include “freshmen GUYS who think they’re [sic] all that” and “DRUNKEST GIRLS AT USF??” Besides revealing a use of the English language which is questionable at best, many of the posts reveal homophobic, anti-Semitic, sexist and racist tendencies. One thread on the site tries to ‘out’ students who are supposedly closeted. Another is a startling testimony of racial division here at USF. It’s no wonder the website was banned a few weeks ago at the University of Tennessee, where administrators are now  refusing to host the site on their servers.
Some posters have called an end to the gossip wars, calling for posters to “grow up” and leave the cattiness of high school days behind once and for all. One poster goes on to say, “I’m pretty sure college girls and guys have enough to deal with without someone calling them the ugliest person on campus.”
But isn’t it everyone’s secret wish to find out what people really think of them? Juicy Campus seems to be just as much about being able to anonymously attack others as it is about being able to find what the uncensored opinions of others are towards you. After searching for my name and coming up with nothing (I must admit I was sorely disappointed) I created a post titled “Maro Guevara” that read, “What’s the deal with him? Discuss.” The trap sprung, I eagerly awaited to see if anyone would take the bait. Two weeks later, my post had over two hundred views, but only three replies, which, judging by their encouraging and positive nature, I assume are all from my house mates. So much for that.
As for the bullet-proof anonymity that the site boasts, posters should think twice if they think they can’t be traced. I called the ITS department at USF and they promptly directed me to Juicy Campus’s own privacy policy, which, in part, reads, “We reserve the right to disclose your personally identifiable information and/or non-personally identifiable information as required by law and when we believe that disclosure is necessary to protect our rights and/or to comply with a judicial proceeding, court order, or legal process served on our Web site.” The website has been subpoenaed in the past for information regarding students who have threatened the security of their campuses. In December of last year, the Associated Press reported that the L.A. police arrested Carlos Huerta, a student who allegedly wrote a post on Juicy Campus threatening to go on a killing spree.
“We don’t as a practice monitor any website,” said Dan Lawson, USF’s director of Public Safety. However, if the health and security of USF’s community was threatened, it would be a different matter entirely, “Would we take action similar to Loyola Marymount? Absolutely.”
In the closing scenes of “Mean Girls,” Lindsay Lohan’s character arrives at a somewhat obvious, but nevertheless meaningful revelation: “Calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter.”
USF’s participation on the site shows no signs of stopping. Students are working overtime to besmirch the school’s carefully crafted brand of tolerance and being men and women for others. The relentless slew of new posts on Juicy Campus is a testament to the fact that USF students may never reach the same level of enlightenment as a high school girl.