Thomas W. Bean and Karen Moni, in their article "Developing Student's Critical Literacy: Exploring Identity Construction in Young Adult Fiction," capture this phenomenon rather well by saying,
"In summary, we found the following themes emerging from contemporary discussions of identity construction. First, identity is no longer anchored to stable employment, communities, or institutions. Rather, identity is constructed through the properties of individual action carried out - more often than not for urban teens - in nonplaces like malls, train stations, and airports. Identity is now a matter of self-construction amidst unstable times, mores, and global consumerism" (642).The idea of how identity is constructed has changed vastly as we find ourselves in a contemporary society exposed to and obsessed with fleeting materialism, endless (and often times suspicious) outlets for media, and their personal and publicized online presence + aesthetic. All of these factors not only change how the genre of young adult fiction is considered and written, but also feeds into a greater question of how youths are trying to find and put themselves together in this post-postmodern world. They make mention of how there is a more pressing feeling of instability and uncertainty in the younger generation, as opposed to constructing a world around them that is rooted and invested in a stable future; however, I do want to make note that I feel like the authors sound rather bitter here- they make it sound like younger people are not concerned AT ALL with trying to invest in a future and have no interest in stability, when in fact, it's the exact opposite. There is such a fear and clinging on to anything that has the potential to be stable by myself and my peers around me, but the external social, economic, and personal hardships are real threats to any semblance of a future.
Additionally, young people who consider themselves writers have to look for that identity now in a much larger world, since the Internet is at their disposal. In order to feel like they are writers, they look to an online community in order to publish and find validation, which is a daunting task as it is very easy to put your work out there to thousands and thousands of anonymous eyes who will and want to read (and even review) what you write. All of this is why I'm glad that the other article is Rebecca W. Black's "Online Fan Fiction, Global Identities, and Imagination," which discusses this online writing community, albeit a subset in the form of the fanfiction genre, that is directly related to youth culture and writer identity.
Black reiterates a lot of what Bean and Moni discuss in terms of the construction of identity in a contemporary society. However, Black delves more deeply into how online spaces, such as fanfiction.net, help build up this identity, especially in ESL/ELL youths. These online spaces provide opportunities for practicing not only creative writing, but for people to practice the structure of the English language in general. I mentioned in the Networked Narratives class during our discussion on fanfiction that one thing I remember from my time as an author on fanfiction.net was that there was a lot of writers who identified themselves as being from Singapore. I didn't realize the huge presence of ELL writers on a site was primarily in English, and was always impressed at their grasp and courage for putting themselves (and most importantly, their writing) out there; meanwhile, I struggled with putting myself out there, even though I DID have a grasp of the English language! Funny how that works!
I found a lot of my writer identity during those adolescent years as an author on fanfiction.net, kind of like how both articles suggest. I was able to practice and publish my writing, and people would respond/review in a manner that was constructive and kind. It helped build up my confidence and find my voice as a writer; even though it was not original fiction, it helped my exercise my writing muscles and let me explore the creative worlds I had stuck in my head that wanted to get out.
The community is definitely an important part to anyone who is looking for validation, especially as a budding writer, even in a space where you feel like these anonymous people are somehow your peers. These online communities made me feel more like a writer than if I didn't have them accessible to me, too. If I didn't have the ability to self-publish my work and get response by people I didn't know, I don't know how much of a real "writer" I would have felt like. Like I said, I got a weird feeling of legitimization, which is extremely important in any aspect of a young person's life, if you ask me.
Thus, while parts of identity construction in today's society seems to be unsure and maybe even concerning, there are definitely more opportunities and outlets for people to explore and find themselves, especially as writers and artists. Despite the negative stereotypes of the society and spaces millennials are growing up in, they are not as sheltered, as many people like to claim they are -- instead, they are at times more exposed than a lot of other generations during their age, and definitely find themselves in situations and questioning their identity in a more meaningful way, as hard as that can be in such a fragmented and curious society.