Many members of Generation Y — myself included — are happy to have witnessed the latest institutional collapse brought on by the financial crisis: the death of Juicy Campus. Others, in their distress, have merely turned to similarly noxious forums that have sprouted in its wake. The late Juicy, if you haven't heard of it, was an anonymous digital gossip forum that swept dozens of college networks like a plague last year. Its rise attracted the attention of papers across the country, and even the International Herald Tribune.
The website provided college-specific pages in which students could anonymously profess secrets, gossip about one another, and solicit advice. But Juicy, while having the potential to be a positive social force — some forums were dominated by "who's the nicest person on campus" conversations and "school advice" discussions — instead became, rivalrous, catty, perhaps even criminal, and prolific. The site was available to some 500 campuses. Juicy may be gone, but the trend isn't. A site called College Anonymous Confession Boards has already popped up in its stead.
Common threads of discussion on Juicy included: the nicest chest on campus, who's the best in bed, who throws the best parties, and which freshman is the easiest. Racial slurs and insightful language clearly being par for the course.
At the time of its demise, Juicy Campus was under investigation by attorneys general offices in Connecticut and New Jersey, though founder and CEO Matt Ivester stated the inquires had no link to the shutdown. Instead, he cited the faltering economy and a lack of support from investors. A young woman from the University of Delaware had also sued Juicy in federal court, hoping to uncover the identities of those who had posted libelous comments about her. She later dropped the charges.
Juicy, for its part, had launched its own legal campaign. In coordination with the ACLU, the website appeared close to pressing charges against Tennessee State University, whose administration had blocked the site on the school's network. Hampton University had also blocked the forums.
Juicy Campus, and its inevitable successors, is likely the maxim — or perhaps a late intermediary stage — of the self-tabloidization of Generation Y. Facebook and MySpace were square one, with students posting their interests, pictures and tastes for music and film for the world to see. Next came the blog, in which Gen. Y could pour itself into the public domain as if scanning and publishing pages directly from a diary. Then came Twitter, the micro-blogging program that allows people to post their thoughts, angsts, and experiences throughout the day from nearly any location.
Juicy Campus was the next extension of a bizarre generational desire: to both know all and to be known about. All of this professes a deep, perhaps pathetic, desire to be noticed; to be cared about; to be paid attention to; to be worth following.
It's surprising the number of confessions one finds on anonymous boards of students annoyed by having not seen their names splashed across a page of slander or praise. Either, it often seems, would do. Going without notice, for many in Gen. Y, seems a far worse punishment than being called a bitch, or an asshole, or terrible in bed.
Juicy saw something of a coup during its short year and a half of life. Students at Princeton, for instance, tried to divert attention from the website, some 200 wearing t-shirts reading "anonymity equals cowardice" in protest, and building a love wall on which students could post positive comments about one another.
On the other hand, a student-council-led effort at Pepperdine University to ban the site instead attracted far more attention to its existence, and in Juicy's case, more interest translated to more participation and slander.
So where will this trend end? Is Juicy the height of this personality voyeurism, or just another stone along the path? And will Gen. Y ever tire of this self-proselytizing and seek the privacy so many of our parents relish? It seems doubtful. They appear to be joining Facebook more and more by the day.
Brian Till, one of the nation's youngest syndicated columnists, is a research fellow for the New America Foundation, a think tank in Washington. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about the author and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.