Protecting family from youthful indiscretions?
July 26, 2007 8:03 PM   Subscribe

I think my cousin's being an idiot and it may come back to haunt him down the line. What can/should I do?

I recently added my 17-year-old cousin as a friend on Facebook. He's white and about as far from a "street" upbringing as I can imagine (grew up in a mansion with an indoor pool and a private tennis court, just to give a sense).

Reading his profile, I've discovered that he's way into gangsta rap culture, which I'm not going to judge. But he's also uploading photos of himself displaying gang signs, and of him and his (also white) friends labelled "Me and my n***as" [censorship added]. He has links to Myspace pages which I'm assuming are theirs, with similar content publicly available (in contrast to Facebook's contact-only default privacy settings).

I'm a little worried that between the racial insensitivity and glamorization of criminal activites, he's going to have created this online persona that will bite him in the ass when a potential employer googles his name. Lord knows most of us do things when we're in high school that we're glad aren't on a permanent record somewhere.

Should I do anything about this? Frankly, I'm willing to accept the possibility that I'm overblowing the situation and that these things sort themselves out.

But if I do take action, what should I do? I don't really have any connection to the guy other than being related (Irish family, he's one of dozens of cousins), so I wouldn't feel comfortable barging into his lifestyle and telling him how ugly the furniture is. At the same time, I don't want to get a reputation as the family narc by ratting him out to his parents. Any suggestions on a way to address this that might actually have an effect without bruising feelings or initiating hostilities?
posted by Riki tiki to Human Relations (18 answers total)
I wouldn't worry about it too much. If he grows out of it, I'm sure he'll "put aside childish things" and take town his gangsta profiles.

There was this undergrad working in a neighbouring lab who was very very caucasian but acted 'gangsta.' He was eventually turfed because his demeanor just annoyed people.

If he doesn't grow out of it, it's not going to make a difference wrt his future employment. If you care for his future - just tell him what you told us; his online conduct is unprofessional and might hurt future job prospects. Perhaps suggest that he post using a pseudonymn. Does he have a 'gangsta' name?
posted by porpoise at 8:08 PM on July 26, 2007

You should not do anything about this. MySpace exists solely so teenagers can create stupid, ugly, ridiculous sites for themselves. His site sounds like every other teenage MySpace I've seen. You cannot and should not make any comments to him about the content on either of his pages. The only thing you might encourage him to do is make sure his real name isn't visible (you can turn off the search engine cache in settings on Facebook; with MySpace, you just have to make sure it isn't on the page itself), so it doesn't get picked up on Google, because of privacy, etc- I think that's general enough for you to say. Other than that, leave him alone.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:08 PM on July 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

If he's not looking for a job, then his profile isn't hurting him that much. He can take it down when he needs to or when he grows out of it.

But you can give him a hint by removing him as a friend. Tell him that you don't want to be associated with the language, because you have a reputation to uphold and you don't want to offend your other friends.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:23 PM on July 26, 2007

He should keep his real name and face or other identifiable photo off there. Even if he takes his site down later, as someone said, after a while his site will get archived and put in the wayback machine, where you can find info about sites that no longer exist. Not saying that thing is always easy to search, but if he's in there, there's always the chance an employer finds it one day. Furthermore, any identifiable photo may be grabbed and associated to his real name elsewhere and can also bite him in the ass later.
posted by Listener at 8:32 PM on July 26, 2007

You can tell him to start using a clever online alias, like Ambrosia Voyeur, say, and all about why he should do this. At least to the degree of having ungooglablility for naughty/nonprofessional stuff. Just drop him a Myspace message about that, as friendly CYA advice.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:34 PM on July 26, 2007

He's young. Let him make his own mistakes (because he will anyways, even if you suggest caution) -- the most you can do is suggest that he make his Facebook account private.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 8:58 PM on July 26, 2007

Part of growing up is getting schooled by peers regarding annoying behavior. If you confront him about his behavior, you are depriving him of character-building social humiliation.
posted by pluckysparrow at 8:58 PM on July 26, 2007 [5 favorites]

Is it possible he is doing this ironically?
posted by jtfowl0 at 9:19 PM on July 26, 2007

Take him for a Sunday drive and drop him off in the hood. If he makes it home he'll have learned all he needs to know about keeping it gangsta.

Furthermore, what type of childhood (or teen years) did you have that you weren't into something stupid? Christ, I wore flannel over Grateful Dead shirts to high school and had a skater hair... I was just asking to get busted by the po-po.

If you want to have a positive impact, make fun of him. Leave comments on his facebook wall saying how you like his bling-bling, or that you love snoopy-snoopy-doggie too.

And yeah, those rich, white, suburb gangsta kids are stoopidly annoying, but get over it.
posted by wfrgms at 10:27 PM on July 26, 2007

If you're going to do or say anything, make it because he's being gross and insensitive, not because some nameless entity might someday think less of him or you.
posted by loiseau at 10:37 PM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Believe it or not, suburban white boys are the primary demographic for gangsta rap.

The perfect movie for this.
posted by rhizome at 11:18 PM on July 26, 2007

I'm a little worried that between the racial insensitivity and glamorization of criminal activites, he's going to have created this online persona that will bite him in the ass when a potential employer googles his name. Lord knows most of us do things when we're in high school that we're glad aren't on a permanent record somewhere...Frankly, I'm willing to accept the possibility that I'm overblowing the situation and that these things sort themselves out.

Send him a friendly heads-up email telling him you're a little concerned and reminding him of the above. Point out that sites like keep this stuff around and searchable forever (if indeed sites like that do save MySpace pages, I don't know). Be sure to include the part about accepting the possibility that you're over-reacting. Let him do what he wants after that; at least you know he's making a slightly more informed decision. Express the concern and drop it: that's about all you can do.
posted by mediareport at 11:24 PM on July 26, 2007

some nameless entity might someday think less of him or you.

More importantly, it's really just good sense. - judgment neutral advice to CYA online. I want to be honest about myself with all people, and certainly online, but not in a way that can unlock the "you're just a bad fit here and here's proof" firing trapdoor at will for any given employer. It's so easy to draw a line between people you trust and people you don't, and kids aren't figuring out where on their own as well as they should with regard to online performance. I don't trust da man to accept me as I am. Sameprobably goes for Wigga Skillz over there.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:29 PM on July 26, 2007

p.s. Riki tiki, if you email me, I can expand on a related story which saw some anonymous action here.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:31 PM on July 26, 2007

It's worth saying a few words about but talking about it in an effective way won't be easy. If you try to embarrass or ridicule him he'll just be alienated. That will just push him further into his subculture. Hopefully he has more going on in his life than just his social scene. If so you can point out that others will find these photos and such either silly or offensive. For examples where it would have an adverse effect do mention things like a job, but also stuff that might be more immediate like starting at a new school or meeting some hot preppy chick at a vacation resort. Would having that associated with a Google search on his name be a good start? I don't see much value in humiliation and I don't think it builds character. I tended to change when someone spoke me to in an upfront but discreet and impersonal way. If you don't come on too heavy here you might be able to help your cousin avoid a little stigma and turn this into a private memory that is either a small embarrassment or a good laugh that he can share with whoever he pleases. Don't look to do anything more than to remove his name.
posted by BigSky at 4:48 AM on July 27, 2007

I had a similar question previously here. What I found similar between our two situations was the use of "powerful" symbols and gestures, which are seen as racist or hateful.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 5:23 AM on July 27, 2007

I did the same thing when I was a teenager. No N-Bombs but a similar thing. Nothing happened. Actually, we posed with fake assault rifles, that probably wouldn't fly nowadays.
posted by mike_bling at 1:42 PM on July 27, 2007

My brother is 19 and is still heavy into that ethos. He grew up listening to house I can't stand, gangsta rap that would wilt the triple-digit IQers among us (Juicy J is good?!?!?!), and was involved in some criminal stuff before his move. Basically, I saw him headed down the same road, and he was a lot further down that road when I caught up with him. We've been living separately and not had much contact for about 5 years, until I finally convinced him to move in with me about 3 months ago.

Starting about a year ago he saw very clearly the need to get out of a bad family/economic/social situation, and I was there to catch him. If you really want to make a difference in his life, his myspace page sure as hell isn't the only thing you'll have to work to change. You need to be involved with him. Heavily. You need him to look up to you and trust you. And then you need to be a positive influence. If he's into gangsta rap, you need to take him out and buy him Public Enemy, KRS-1, Mr. Lif, and The Clipse records. Show him Bus Driver and have him come to the gym with you to get big gangsta arms. If he's interested in guns, take him to a shooting range. If he's into "hustling", show him your Ameritrade account. If he likes calling his clique his nigg4z, throw some Nation of Islam mp3's on his iPod. Hip-hop and street culture isn't necessarily a bad thing, just like agrarian nationalism and jihad; it's just when people engage these things on a superficial, violent, and simplistic level that they become dangerous and fuck up their lives, and you get thugz with the glitter, rebel yell fundie rednecks, and Iraqi terrorists kidnapping Koreans and sawing their heads off on camera, all quite unemployable. To beat this thing, it'll take love, understanding, involvement, and respect of his choices, because he's going to brush you off if you tell him it endangers his job prospects. If he loves the gangsta culture, you have to show him all the positive things there are to love about it, and believe me, there are lots. Once you take care of exposing him to all that, he'll take care of himself.

Basically, his future employability is the least of his/your problems, and you'll never deal with it singly.
posted by saysthis at 2:40 AM on July 28, 2007

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