CHICAGO. As June winds down, graduates of local colleges here are packing up their belongings to move on to the next phase of their lives. “I can’t believe I have so many street signs,” says Jason Reeves, who will become an auditor in training at an accounting firm in July. “I don’t remember stealing most of them.”
But for Tyler Mantz, one of his roommates, the outlook for the future is dim. “What are you going to be doing?” Reeves’ father asks Mantz as he closes up a cardboard box of his son’s belongings.
“I don’t know,” Mantz says. “Something–I guess.”
Mantz is one of the first victims of parental blogging to reach maturity, and is being monitored as part of a longitudinal study at the University of Illinois. “We’re finding that kids who were the subject of allegedly humorous blogs by their parents are having a hard time adjusting to the prospect of adulthood,” says Dr. Tomas Bertelsmyer. “Identity issues, excessive scratching, bed-wetting,” he says as he shakes his head over a computer print-out that is redacted to remove the names of subjects.
Beginning in the early years of the 21st century, when maintaining a “blog”–short for “web log,” shorter for “world wide web log” –became a common practice among self-dramatizing parents, a generation of boys and girls were exposed to public scrutiny as subjects of their parents’ on-line musings with effects that are only now being studied with academic rigor. “A lot of those kids bore the burden of providing cute anecdotes for their parents’ web content,” says Bertelsmyer. “They were known around the world when they were just toddlers–you can imagine how it might crush a young person’s soul, your toilet-training a source of laughs to people in Bangladesh and Australia.”
Psychiatrists are working on a drug “cocktail” they hope can bring relief to the young adults whose psyches are scarred by web publicity, and Mantz’s mother–who divorced his father over his “Those Krazy Kids o’ Mine” blog–signed him up for a clinical trial. “Here sweetie,” she says as she hands him a paper cup of water and a pill, “it’s time for your two o’clock dose.”
Her son looks at the medication, then at his mother, and shrugs his shoulders indifferently. “What’s the point?” he says as he turns his head to the wall. “I’ll never escape my search history.”