The conviction that the opposite sex was this orb of mystery and desire that seemed to require a deft and methodical approach—else its members would explode in a bout of humiliating giggles the way a timorous rabbit skitters away at a too-bold advance—proved in hindsight to be a sort of personal safeguard. And not just against having a date for the next school dance. Since it takes the same effort to delete a picture message as it does to forward it to all your contacts, it takes only a single moment of indiscretion or vie for greater popularity on the part of the recipient to take an explicit image and make “the originator…become the laughing stock and shameful gossip dirt of the entire school.” And to think that I couldn’t take the guffaws of the girl whom I was interested and those of her flanking clique when I minced words trying to ask her to a group thing.
“Hey Laura, I was wondering you would like to so gee a movie with me and my friends?”
“Do what? Why don’t you try asking again after an English refresher.”
Pubertal heartache can be as fleeting as the brief romantic encounters that are the norm at that age. That’s not to say duration is any indicator of emotional intensity, though. At an age where social opportunities tend to slowly expand one’s sphere of peer interaction, new hopes, new crushes, and new longings develop, only to flop, decay, or otherwise reach a catastrophic end. In this tumultuous time of change, the only constant is the evolution of peer relationships, and with the halls a whirring gossip mill and press train, cold shoulders and silent treatments, sarcastic ridicule and shattering of BFF statuses always arose to meet the ever changing interpersonal relationships.
But gone are the days when accusations and insults scrawled on the walls of bathroom stalls embodied the sum of psychological damage that could be inflicted by a hurt, vengeful, or jealous fellow student. The ink that reads Stephanie’s a slut or Eric’s a jerk might be indelible, but no amount of scrubbing or painting can cover the sexual image sent in confidence to your then-crush or now ex-lover and those which has become e-fodder.“When a photo becomes viral online, it is virtually impossible to remove the damage and recall all the copies.” So when teens tell themselves that they don’t have to worry about their picture being leaked, because their significant other wouldn’t do that, it is important to remember that as an ex they might!
Browse. Open. Submit. Entire websites devoted to the vengeful practice of uploading explicit images from past partners ought to stand in testament to the unpredictability of other’s actions; I’m sure the subjects uploaded and disseminated by visitors to such sites had the same confidence in partner discretion as Stephanie did when she sent those pictures to Eric.
I can look back with a sardonic smirk when I think of how I embarrassed myself with my flustered tendency of transposing the starting letters of abutting words when I tried to break the ice with a new love interest. At the time, I was sure such flubs would lead to my life’s total ruin. I can see those social faux pas now as entertaining and harmless, but for my slightly younger counterparts who succumb to a comparably short moment of misfortune involving technology the result could legitimately bring about personal devastation.
The risk of facing felony charges and punishments that ranges from a probationary period to several years in a juvenile detention center can and have been realized by teens that, through sending lewd pictures of themselves or a fellow minor, have faced felony charges. One incident, whose underage defendant might be seen as having been made an example of, was found guilty of child pornography distribution for mass-forwarding erotic pictures of his ex. Part of the sentence handed down required him to add his name and photo to the national sex offender registry and abide by applicable laws. This means that for the next few decades he not only must stay away from schools, but also refrain from contact with under aged family members.
With the prevalence of adult-oriented image sharing taking place by those who are not yet fully developed physically or mentally, my angst-filled journals of lost loves, hesitant hands and bashfulness amidst my jello-legged and tongue-tied exchanges with mystifying members of the other sex read like they are from another era. An era where the trials and tribulations of a teenager can be looked back upon and seen for what they were: bumps in the road, character-building conflicts, and transitory states of mind. A time still filled with old-fashioned sense and sensibilities amidst an epoch of instant gratification and explication.