Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Last weekend, a teenager's summer bucket list left behind in an Urban Outfitters dressing room went viral. Reading the list, it's immediately obvious that this teen is a Pittsburgher, as she includes local activities like "go to Kennywood" and "Randyland." The list gained popularity because it perfectly encapsulates the blind optimism and chaos of being a teenager with hilariously NSFW items like "get crossfaded 17 times" and "give 2 blowjobs" alongside adorably sweet ones like "pet a giraffe" and "tie a message to a balloon and let it go." The list is a piece of found art, posted everywhere from Jezebel to Elle UK, but it also shows what it means for teenagers today to live in a culture of virality.
The list first appeared online when Twitter user @scorpiosars posted a picture of it, saying "My friends, friend found this in an Urban Outfitters dressing room... make this go viral." The user, identified by Complex Magazine as Sarah Sams, a student at Robert Morris University, told the magazine “I wanted it to go viral because if she lost it, at least if it were on the internet maybe she would come across it and get it back.” Sams claims she was not trying to "expose" anyone but that is not explicitly clear in the original tweet. There is something weirdly sinister about saying "make it go viral."
My friends, friend found this in an Urban Outfitters dressing room... make this go viral pic.twitter.com/27u9s2jyfA— SS (@scorpiosars) July 14, 2017
We don't know the identity of the list maker, and hopefully never will but it feels safe to assume that it was made by a high-school-aged girl. (Based on the general vibe, it also feels safe to assume it was found at the Southside Works Urban Outfitters). If it was me, I'd be pissed, and embarrassed that someone would post this with the intention of laughing at me, even if they didn't know who I was. I would also be terrified that my parents or teachers would recognize my handwriting. This is a relatively new fear, and one unique to the current climate.
The speed at which images and videos go viral seemingly leaves space for anyone to be able to achieve it. Going viral doesn't necessarily require any skills, talent, or money. But this kind of virality has a hollow reward. In this case, Sams didn't write the list or even find it, but just knew someone who did. Still, her tweets like "We made @buzzfeed !!!!!!!!!!" (three times) imply that she accomplished something, or at least that she wanted a viral tweet.
This isn't an old-man-shaking-his-fist rant about kids these days and their cell phones. I only graduated high school four years ago! I got a Facebook and flip phone in middle school, but it's one thing when teenagers are judging and laughing with/at each other. It's a problem when adults, with fully formed brains join in on the conversation. Many responses to the tweet harshly judge the author; "If she's ok with putting 8 'hoe pics' on insta, you think she's gonna sweat this anonymous note leaking? Frankly, she's too busy to care," and "I wanna lecture this girl so bad." Because this girl dropped a piece of paper, she now has middle aged strangers telling her everything on her bucket list is excessive, inappropriate and shameful.
There are people like Dr. Phil who have essentially made careers having overly criminal, promiscuous, or otherwise delinquent teenage girls on his show to confront them alongside their families. He trots them out like sideshow freaks, exploiting their vulnerabilities while profiting off of the behavior he demonizes. Sometimes clips from the shows are popular or made into memes and other times they reach the logical extreme of virality, like when businesses and corporations thought it was acceptable to monetize the disturbingly erratic behavior of 13-year-old Danielle Bregoli a.k.a. the "cash me ousside" girl.
Adults have a tendency to forget what it was really like to be a teenager, which is weird because it feels impossible to leave behind. This is probably why, in addition to the rude judgements, there are plenty of grown people replying "SAME" to this list. For the record, I found a summer bucket list I made with my friends when I was 15. It has cute activities like "romp around in rompers" and "make ice cream" alongside weirdly disturbing ones like "dark slippery fights" and "egg bitch and douche." It was posted in a note on Facebook, when that was a relevant thing to do, but few people saw it or cared. I'm sharing it now, because I'm an adult making this decision for myself, but if a stranger on the internet posted it back then, I would've probably egged them.