'Frontline: Generation Like': 'Selling out' foreign concept to kids today

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Technology moves so fast these days that what seemed normal for one group of teens can become obsolete for their younger brothers and sisters, let alone their children.

Once upon a time, the young wanted to be seen as rebelling against "The Man," separating themselves from the mainstream, even if that separation was largely illusory.

A decade ago, correspondent Douglas Rushkoff did "The Merchants of Cool" and "The Persuaders" for PBS' "Frontline," exploring how savvy marketers lured teens into brand loyalty.

On Tuesday, Feb. 18 (check local listings), Rushkoff's latest "Frontline" report, "Generation Like," shows that no luring is needed anymore.

Producer/writer Frank Koughan tells Zap2it, "The kids all kind of get how this stuff works and are willing participants in it and have a level of sophistication and understanding that actually was quite surprising to me. Yet when you brought up a concept like 'selling out' ... the blank stares were just stunning to me. But that's a generational difference."

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Through social media, young people know how to build a personal brand, create an online persona, and publicize it among their friends and to the world at large. If that means participating with major brands offering platforms for exposure, they're fine with that.

"They know what they want and where they want to be, but they may be less aware of the connection among real talent, effort and reward."

Says Rushkoff, "They're more sophisticated in one way but less in another. These are kids that were born with 'American Idol' when they're 5 years old. They don't really draw a distinction between getting famous and being good at something.

"It's like, 'I'm gonna be a pop star.' A lot of kids say, 'I want to be famous.' 'Doing what?' 'It doesn't really matter. Oh, I'll sing. I'll do this.'

"So, they're more aware of how 'likes' work, how to create networks, how to play the system, but they're less aware of what art is, of what genuinely good content is."
Photo/Video credit: PBS