Shana, Megan, along with their friends Chris and Katie are all performing this spring in a traditional staged school production of “The Wizard of Oz.” Traditional except that the tornado segment is being done with a Powerpoint projection of a real twister, student actors edited in with effects. Their drama teacher communicates with the cast on a Yahoo listserve, connecting them to other theater events and acting workshops around Philadelphia.
Chris, a tall 18-year-old redhead with a self-deprecating sense of humor, is playing the scarecrow. Once he got outfitted in his floppy-hat costume, pictures were taken and posted on his MySpace online profile. (MySpace, as everyone with a teenager in the home knows, is a social networking Web site with over 40 million members now, a large majority of them Millennials.) “I’m one of those sick MySpace people,” says Chris. “I’m on like two hours a night, talking to all my friends.” Chris has 130 “friends” listed on his MySpace account, most of them girls. “I used to play a lot of video games, but not since 8th grade when I became popular!” he says, only half joking.
If one of the challenges of adolescence is defining your own identity, these students have made a wild, high-tech game of it, constantly recreating and illustrating their online personas with photos, video, music playlists, links, and blog entries they post from their PC’s or cell phones. Shana, who has profiles up now on four different social networking sites, describes herself this way on the “About Me” section of her MySpace home page: