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Teens get way harsh on MySpace

Airing dirty laundry in public

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Breaking up might have been hard to do when Neil Sedaka sang about it, but thanks to Sir Tim Berners Lee, it is now as easy for teenagers to break up with each other as it is for them to microwave a junk food sausage.

Yes, the latest thing to do is to break up with your beau on his or her MySpace page. It is a far cry from the heady days we at El Reg can remember, when people would break up with each other by text message. So cosy, so personal. So old hat.

Danah Boyd, a doctoral candidate in the School of Information at the University of California at Berkeley, is studying online teen behaviour. She says teenagers are now all too aware that any kind of recorded message can be manipulated to mean something beyond its original intent. They also know that people can lie about private conversations, and so choose to break up in public so everyone knows their side of the story.

Boyd writes: "By breaking up through MySpace comments, the heartbreaker is attempting to assert their view for everyone else to see so that they cannot be accused of saying something else in private."

The risk, of course, is that the ex will simply delete you from their list of friends, thus condemning all your hard crafted, bile drenched words of parting to cyberspace oblivion.

Boyd ponders the very public nature of teenage relationships here in a blog entry about her research. She concludes that although the lack of privacy bothers older people, for teens, public displays make all the sense in the world:

"Although the mall and movie theatre are still desired outings for teen couples, many have far greater access to networked publics like MySpace than they do to unmediated publics. Thus, it's natural that the primary plumage display takes place in these forums," she concludes. ®

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