Summer Break: teenagers’ social media narcissism becomes social media-only reality show

A new reality show started airing this week: Summer Break follows nine pre-college, Los Angeles-area teeenagers. The catch is that the show exists only on social media, and will consist entirely of brief daily episodes and slightly less brief weekly videos that are professionally shot and edited, but will also may incorporate the endless real-time stream of photos, video, and tweets by the cast members.

The result is very Laguna Beach, and very superficial and narcissistic and all those other words old people use to describe younger people’s behavior. The Real World‘s recent seasons are like Masterpiece Theatre compared to this. If there’s substance, it’s buried in annoying content that’s probably cleverly deployed to prevent crotchety old mid-30s bastards like me from understanding it. Just reading the show’s Twitter feed makes my head hurt because so little of it is comprehensible.

There is good news: The Wall Street Journal reports that “[p]roducers will have only modest influence on what the Summer Break teens do each day, meaning drama isn’t guaranteed.” Cast members’ phones are connected to Dropbox so all their photos and videos go directly to producers, but professional camera operators are following them, which is why the footage below looks terrific, even if there’s little substance.

If this captures the real lives of pre-college teenagers who are already living their lives online, that’s great. I just wish the format had subject matter that was more compelling to me.

Here’s this week’s first “real time” daily episode, followed by the first actual episode:

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.