“Adulting Is Hard” or Digital Back-Tracking Online

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 11:17
Location: Hörsaal 32 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Katrin TIIDENBERG, Tallinn University, Estonia
Airi-Alina ALLASTE, Tallinn University, Estonia
We live in a digitally saturated world. Social media not only mediate, but also constitute and constrain our lives. There is relative consensus among internet researchers, that social media provides an alternative to both interpersonal and mediated communication, allowing for identity work and providing flexible modes of sociability, which let individuals sustain strong and weak ties.

Today, perhaps more than ever before, young people’s lives do not progress in a linear fashion from childhood to teenage years to adulthood. There is back-tracking or boomeranging, where young people go back to their parental home after having moved out, or back to school after having entered the labor market. Some may even say that in our youth-obsessed consumer cultures growing up or “adulating” (in internet speak) is not a desirable outcome. This presentation explores how social media practices and communities can serve as a way for young people to negotiate the external and internal pressures, (lack of) discernible markers of transition and digitally back track without too much jostling their material lives. 

Relying on the example of a tumblr.com community of people who share sexy selfies, we explore how continuing self-exploration in a safe, communal space, serves as a way to manage social and personal transitions and alleviate the anxiety these may bring. Based on thematic and visual analysis of interviews, blogs, images and captions of 9 (21 – 30 YO) people, we question the potential of social media for helping with the experience of being an adult in the 21st century and offer the lens of digital back-tracking to understand the reflexive self-management young people today seem to have to undertake.