How ‘13 Reasons Why’ And Other Teen Dramas Show That Technology Is Warping Our World

As teens’ lives change due to tech, so do the shows that represent them.

T.V. shows aimed at teenagers probably aren’t the first place you turn for astute analysis about how the digital age is affecting our lives. But as writer Megan Farokhmanesh explores in this article on The Verge, teen-centric dramas are leading the conversation about how technology shapes today’s adolescent experience, exposing the dark side of digital communication.

Farokhmanesh looks specifically at the CW’s Archie adaptation Riverdale, the high school-based role-playing game Persona 5 and Netflix’s hit show 13 Reasons Why as examples of how teen dramas are portraying technology. Notably, even older people who “grew up without a smartphone glued to their hand” as Farokhmanesh puts it, are tuning in: 13 Reasons Why surpassed other Netflix shows in Twitter-buzz and Riverdale attracts viewers up to 49 years old.

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Television shows have featured technology as a character in its own right before (Sherlock and House of Cards both prominently explore and visualize texting), but there’s something about high school stories, “free of pretension,” Farokhmanesh writes, that “trace the pitfalls of our most-reached for items in a way that feels authentic.” (And they do it without having to go full Twilight Zone or Black Mirror to express the dangers of technology).

For example, 13 Reasons Why, which is getting a lot of attention, both positive and negative, for how it handled suicide (Netflix recently added a trigger warning to the start of the show), explores how “a single text to the wrong person can be dangerous enough,” Farokhmanesh writes.

The show focuses on a teen named Hannah who commits suicide after a peer mass-texts rumors and photos about her sex life. The show, Farokhmanesh argues, looks at how “the internet and technology can weaponize gossip,” something that’s as true off-screen as it is on.

The fact that teen-centric dramas are dealing with the darker side of technology more prominently than “adult drama contemporaries” is telling. It shows how this generation, growing up with smartphones in hand, is subject to an entirely different experience of adolescence, one that often exacerbates the problems that can make high-school miserable for many, like bullying and gossip.

Read more on The Verge.