If, like me, you have become accidentally addicted to an evil teen drama also known as “Gossip Girl”, then you too must be wondering how can a soap set in a New York prep school keep us watching into a second season.
I’ve read several theories on the subject from equally puzzled members of the adult audience. Is it the guilty pleasure of seeing very BCBG 16-year olds worry about getting into Yale as they shoot tequila, travel in stretch limos and buy shares in the city’s brothels? Could it be the naïveté of the glamorous parents whose scheming does not even come close to that of their angelic offspring? Is it the deluxe sex scenes (magazine critics love those), or the flawless fashion sense (same critics give it A+), or simply the fact that in a time of crisis, it is just so refreshing to watch a fairy-tale without wondering how the protagonists make a living?
I have another theory. Gossip girl shows us a proper use of technology. For those of you in the dark, the chorus of this drama is a blog by the anonymous Gossip Girl. In it she reveals the dirty secrets of her classmates, gathering this information via an equally anonymous army of – ahem… shall we say iReporters? – who snap furtive photos with their cellphones or send her tips by SMS.
So what if this show were an example of how blogs, texting and MMS can help us become more self-aware, come clean to our friends and face up to the issues in our life? It is, let’s face it, a great improvement over the way we use Facebook, Twitter or whichever new website is wasting our time at the moment.
Think about it. Web 2.0 turned out to be the most ego-friendly environment one can imagine. We have all become spin masters, editing ourselves for the world to see, doctoring our image and airbrushing the dark side. All those glamorous tongue-in cheek posts on Facebook, happy party pictures and clever Wall-to-Wall quips – don’t you just wish one of your friends would tell you how he or she really feels?
You will never see a post like: “ Feeling depressed and, oh my god, just ate a pound of ice-cream”. Or “Think I am getting fired. Should I blackmail the boss?” Or “Can’t fit into my jeans!!!”
No, it is all about cute babies and vacations in St. Barth’s, college photos and joining some elaborate cause. Facebook gives us a sense of being part of a permanently happy, always wired and extremely popular crowd — never mind the fact that you connected to most of them only to get the friend-counter up on your profile. Heart-to-heart phone calls grow increasingly rare, personal emails become posts for everyone to see, and instead of touching someone’s hand you tag them in a photo.
And how about Twitter? You can send telegraphic messages to your “followers”, informing them about the progress of your day. Granted I am yet to actually subscribe to one of those feeds, but I doubt that any of them goes like this: “8:00 Dropped kids off at school. 10:00 Picked up laundry. 11:00 FedEx package arrives. 11:30 Having sex with the FedEx guy. 11:40 Husband home, forgot briefcase.”
Or something even more common: “14:45 Am I wasting my life? 15:00 Did I sell out? 15:05 Am I doing what I was meant to do? “ How many of those thoughts are drowned by the 2.0 chatter where everyone is happy, healthy and oh so popular?
Plato’s shadows on the cave wall may have turned into Facebook profiles but the ancient question remains the same: how long can we hold on to these virtual selfs before we understand that they are an illusion? Even kids on Gossip Girl are more real than that – champagne, private jets and trustfunds notwithstanding.