Today the teens are giving adults a taste of their own medicine on Twitter. In response to the ongoing #followateen movement, in which grownups examine the tweets of kids to discover how silly most of Twitter is, teens on the social platform are rising up and asking their brethren to #followanadult — because, as the team behind one prominent teems claims, adults are lame, too. If this all sounds like a bunch of gibberish — it kind of is! — we're here to explain.
The idea for #followateen goes back to 2011 and is credited to Boston Phoenix music writer David Thorpe, a.k.a. @Arr. And the concept is pretty simple: Go on Twitter. Follow a teen who uses Twitter. Tweet about what they do on Twitter with the hashtag #followateen. Thorpe explained all of this in an email to BuzzFeed's Katie Notopolous back in April: "If you get below the surface, Twitter is like 99% teens who are mad at their moms and think English class is total bullshit (and don't even get me started about Keighlinn, who is being a TOTAL bitch). It's a lot of fun to find a random one and casually keep tabs on their stupid teen life. It's not a stalky thing, it's just about tuning in to the weird secret worldwide teenosphere and seeing what's up with today's youth."
In April Thorpe tweeted:
So Notopolous, quite a few BuzzFeed employees, and other Internet denizens have been keeping tabs on teens. Just yesterday, Notopolous published an update on #followateen, with some examples of what various young people have been up to on social media. Said young people, it seems, have pretty mundane lives:
My teen wants a smoothie and hates everyone.#followateen— Juston Payne (@justonpayne) May 2, 2013
My teen got asked to prom by dude texting "prom??".. It was very cute #followateen— Cam Cam (@squidvstractor) April 30, 2013
The #followateen movement has not gone without criticism. An essay in The New Inquiry by Helena Fitzgerald focused on the creepiness of it all:
Besides the comments on proms and crushes and parents and school and #yolo, the most common theme on #followateen is people pointing out that #followateen is creepy. It’s a good point. Of course it’s creepy. It’s really creepy. If you haven’t yet noticed, Twitter is, itself, creepy.
But today some Internent-dwelling teens are trying to turn the tables. This morning, Rookie, the website aimed at teenage girls that is the brainchild of teenage wunderkind fashion blogger/Internet celebrity Tavi Gevinson, tweeted:
Now of course Gevinson is a particularly Internet-savvy teenager, and not exactly #followateen's target audience. Anaheed Alani, Rookie's editorial director (and an adult herself) told The Atlantic Wire in an email that the the idea for #followanadult came from a discussion on Facebook last night: "Something about it felt off to us — mostly that the tweets the people who took part in that were mocking were no lamer than most adults' tweets. A writer of ours, Hazel Cills, came up with the idea for #followanadult and made the first tweet about it." Cills, who has been tweeting things like "My adult works in media and hates New York
#followanadult," explained her reasoning in an email to the Wire as well:
I remember seeing a lot of #followateen tags on my Twitter feed and thinking that was kind of weird and sort of mocking teens. The #followanadult tag is kind of like teens saying "Okay adults, we see you, we'll let you know how unintentionally hilarious you are too." I follow mostly adults already, so all of my tweets are composites of a bunch of adults I follow. I don't think the tag is really a parody, rather it's turning that followateen tag back on its creators in a really funny way.
Gevinson, herself, has also been participating:
my adult is making yet another hilarious joke about google vs bing #followanadult— Tavi Gevinson (@tavitulle) May 3, 2013
my adult is offended by alleged misuse of the word "literally" #followanadult— Tavi Gevinson (@tavitulle) May 3, 2013
And others have joined in:
my adult is having anxiety because Joran van der Sloot will be out of jail in 28 years. #followanadult— rahima (@afdalxrahima) May 3, 2013
Given that this is all very insular, there are also some adults who just want to be followed.
So what is all this? It's part social experiment, part inside joke, part amusing Internet ephemera turned on its head. Here's what it looks like, if your head isn't spinning:
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