Each year there is a different space created by local teenagers where they flock together like birds or fish in wildlife. It is a collective area that is often the destination on Fridays or weekends, where the goal is to socialize with the larger community of kids outside of your own school or activities during the week.
In 2012 it was Telegraph. Then Telegraph Avenue was taken over by Cal campus. There was this small spot by a bridge every one went to. Sometimes there would be a group of 20 kids just hanging out in this small spot, not because it was pretty or comfortable or especially easy to get to, but because it just collectively became acknowledged as the spot.
In 2014 it became the Ledges. A group of large steps near the courthouse, they provide a clear view of Lake Merritt. I mean, the Lake had always been a spot for people to go if you’re from Oakland but over the summer it really became the spot.
What brings teenagers to these collective places every year?
I asked a few teens in the Telegraph what they thought drew teens to a collective space, a place where everyone can identify as a spot to be social.
Here’s what we came up with:
1. Lack of adults
Lack of adults is an important thing. Teenagers are always being constantly surrounded by adults who like to conduct their actions, whether it be school, home, or other places. Many teenagers use these spaces as a place where they feel free to do as they please, regardless of parental or adult supervision and judgement.
2. People introduce locations by kickbacks
A kickback, as defined by Urban Dictionary, is a small gathering between groups of friends. It is more than a get together, but less than a party. Incidents like these usually reach out to people outside of just a small friend group and can introduce the new location via mutual friends etc.
After a while, a space becomes “burnt” or tired, people stop going slowly and all of a sudden nobody goes. Some people account this to boredom but you could also argue that once one person of higher social ranking suggests a space is not cool anymore, then it becomes not cool.
4. Ritual or tradition
It is human nature to create traditions. Perhaps this accounts for peoples return to certain spaces repeatedly. It becomes habit.
Of course, convenience is a big factor. Teenagers tend not to own cars so means of transportation, nearby food joints among other things are important lenders to why a place becomes a “spot”. For example, the Lake tends to be accessible to most teenagers in Oakland, because it is the “center of Oakland”.
Whatever brings teenagers to a place, it is just as interesting to think about how these places disappear or fade out of style as time goes on. One minute a location could be cool and the next day empty. One could blame this on the herd mentality of teenagers. Like elephants, few lead a pack of many.
In an article on the website research. (www.research.com) “The Anxiety of Influence” they discuss teenagers influence on each other regarding trends. “[Teenagers] turn to those they admire for guidance: those of their peers who have lots of friends, who are involved in many activities, and who are confident, admired and informed.” Sound like someone you know? You probably do know someone like this: that one teenager that just seems to be especially cool and always has the most trending clothes, music, etc. Teens like these are usually not just the ones who designate an area as “cool” but also designate it as “uncool”, “lame”, or “boring”.
Why do most teenagers seem to have this "herd mentality"?
First of all, the textbook definition of herd mentality according to investopedia.com is "A mentality characterized by a lack of individual decision-making or thoughtfulness, causing people to think and act in the same way as the majority of those around them."
And to quote Susan Eva Porter, author of Relating to Adolescents: Educators in a Teenage World, “the propensity for imitation makes the prospect of peer pressure and influence very real.” Teenagers are constantly undergoing an identity crisis. In order to find their true “self” they often imitate those around them, resulting in a culture where peer pressure is at large. We do all this of course, to learn, through experience. At least that is the logic of our developing teenage brains.
Where will the next spot be? As the Gazebo begins to fade out into oblivion one can hardly imagine what could be next. All I know is that one day out of the blue it will exist, and you can be sure that everyone will know of it’s existence.