My daughter, Clementine, has recently been very hard at work coming up with new flavors of potato chips. No, this is not her job: this is a hobby. That’s right: she names fried foodstuffs for fun. Hey, it’s not quite as weird as it sounds—lots of kids are doing it. You just go to the Lay’s website and enter in your idea for a new potato chip. ANY kind of new potato chip. Then once your flavor is entered they pit it against flavors other people have submitted and determine the winner through online voting. This means that Clementine gets to see her creations, such as “Teletubby Slash Fanfic,” go head to head against creations such as “Cruel Intentions” and “That Worrisome Itch.” Okay, scratch what I said earlier: this is just as weird as it sounds. And did I say that lots of kids are doing this? What I meant to say was that lots of teenagers are doing it. And by lots, I mean “almost everyone on the website.” Which is why you can’t find one single “normal” potato chip flavor on the entire page.
I’m not sure if it makes it better or worse that there are teenagers in bedrooms all over America subverting the dominant snack foods paradigm, but there it is none the less. And it just goes to show that there is literally nothing that you can invent that a teenager can’t ruin.
Remember Chat Roulette? It was such a nice idea, a way for lonely people who were interested in chatting with other lonely people to connect online, and then, within days it was all hello penises! Same with the new SnapChat, an instant photo messaging system that seems like it was designed solely for people who needed a *safer* way to text pictures of their genitalia to their friends. And then, of course there’s instant messaging, the best friend of teenage bullies everywhere.
Still, to be honest, I’m not really sure that you can say teenagers ruined any of those things. More like exploited their weaknesses. Which, no, isn’t the same thing at all. Think about it: the term they use for the people who are the most willing to try new technology is first adaptors. These are the people who, willingly or not, help find out the flaws in new systems, and, as such, are very useful to the industry. However, I think that what is probably more useful then finding a flaw is finding a weakness, and that is why teenagers are even better.
Think of them as first exploiters.
After all, only a teenager could tell you how vulnerable your great new internet app is to perversion by other teens. And this could be vital information: the lack of embarrassing press conferences in your future could depend upon it. I mean, I’m sure that the makers of Chat Roulette and Snap Chat could probably see their troubles coming, but I’m willing to bet that Lay’s was completely blind-sided. (Although, with a name like “Lay’s” you’d think they would already be a little more vigilant).
Actually, this may be an opportunity for unemployed teenagers everywhere. Maybe industries the world over should start having at least one teenager on staff to run ideas by, so that they can save themselves the embarrassment of having to explain to a confused public why “4-20 4-Ever” was the overall winner of their potato chip competition.
Or who knows? Maybe Lay’s did receive some kind of expert teenage advising already. After all, they didn’t allow people to submit photos with their flavors, did they?
Ugh. Thank God for small mercies. Having already seen the things that teenagers love to photograph so much, I’m not sure if I ever would have been able to eat another potato chip again.