Sunday, 2 March 2008

Meta-teens: where do I sign up?

A depraved new uber demographic is hoovering up teens and twenty-somethings alike: teenagers-acting-like-adults-living-like-a-fantasy-of-teenagers. Or, The Meta Teen. I used to think it was grotesque anti-intellectual short circuiting of emotional insight; now I'd happily express my allegiance by signing up to it's Facebook group.

Born, raised and sustained online, the Meta Teen is an inane proposition - repelling private contemplation in favour of announcing every neurological flicker in a garish klaxophony. It's lifesource is the stereotypical 15 year old - an inarticulate, frustrated, selfish pubescent purgatory fumbling its way around sexuality wearing stupid clothes. It listens to parent-baiting noise music while mindlessly experimenting with all forms of self-stupefaction. Yet with the help of persistent, pan-media renderings of this master host, the Meta Teen is occupying a larger and larger age base. In an attitude epedemic, those older and younger are being subsumed into its contradictory moral quagmire of superficial engagement and hyper expression.

Thanks to Web 2.0 and artforms bleeding effortlessly and gracelessly into each other we can all be Meta Teens. There are multiple points of access into it's harsh, beautiful fucked-up world - music, TV, radio, fashion, club nights - it's all connected and relentlessly reinforced. Online is its engine room, where everything syncs up and amplifies. Everyone's invited to join the hypermediated, broadcast yourself brat pack: MySpace pages for nu rave bands, for Skins characters, for all of us. The friend trails join hands and, in unison, scream into the abyss.

Because of this, received wisdom tells us that social networking profiles are windows into hitherto closed private moments - whole lives, loves and self-definition on display; Meta Teen culture at large an empowering, expressive community. Yet it's not so clear cut. Yes more people are making more noise in more places, but it's a sound clash. It's not deeply personal and it's not unified - in fact, emotional insights are rendered more inexplicable by their increased visibility. It makes sense that the whole trend is soundtracked by the brainless, inaccessible racket of nu rave.

A perfect case study can be found in the past week's episode of Skins. Screeching Canadian electro outfit Crystal Castles provided the catalyst for a defining moment in Meta Teen in the culmination of a typically miserable storyline. Sid, having found his dad dead in his armchair that morning, had remained catatonic all day - going through the motions at college yet saying nothing - until he found himself at a Crystal Castles gig. They unleashed the sublime, melancholy chaos of Alice Practice - the impenetrable bleeps and screeches sending him into a trance and then, finally, sobbing despair. It was a moment of mesmerising eloquence: amidst an isolating communal experience real feeling is remaindered beneath the surface. Attempts at self-expression are met with a turgid cacophony of other people's ideas... until you give up trying to find the words, embrace the emptiness and melt into the crowd.

One feels no more comfort and familiarity in being a Meta Teen than being part of any other group at any other time. However, it's the explicit rejection of comprehensibility amidst such over-enunciation that is its beauty. Everyone's just staggering around in the dark, unable to make themselves seen or heard. Though if you listen hard you can hear them cry, one-by-one: "Fuck emoting, let's get wasted and make out."