Teens of expression: Jade Li

Saturday, August 4, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:09 p.m. CDT, Friday, October 24, 2008
Jade Li blogs and and plays the pipa, a Chinese instrument.

COLUMBIA-Although her peers value self-expression, Jade Li, 17, thinks the media streamlines what people think of as expressive.

“People I see want to be like a model,” she says of other teens. “They say, ‘We shop at the best stores and get the best things.’ But it’s because their friends are doing it. If a really cool movie is coming out, even if they do not like it, they’ll go see it because you are supposed to. You feel like you have to read the same magazines and watch the same TV series. It’s more about peer pressure.”

Jade spends more than 10 hours a day online, taking care of her half dozen blogs.

“You can say anything on the Internet because no one knows who you really are. Nobody can judge you,” she says.

Jade moved to the United States from China four years ago when her mother got a job at MU. Typically, she gets online about 10 a.m. and checks e-mail, Facebook and MySpace.

And then there is writing to do.

“My blogs are how I feel, it’s like a diary or journal sometimes,” Jade says. “Sometimes I will have read a really, really good book and I’ll type up some quotes from it. And there are other times I’m just talking about an event that happened, politics and stuff, or a local event that just happened — because people go to the blogs not just from your city, but from all over the world, to see what’s going on.”

In this anonymous world, Jade feels free to speak her mind.

“If you’re this Asian kid and you don’t really speak English that well, you may be interested in politics but Americans don’t pay attention to you,” she says. “They think you don’t really know much because you’re Asian and you’ve just been here for a little bit.”

During the school year, she spends less time online and devotes herself to studying, attending as many school clubs as possible and working for The Rock, the newspaper at Rock Bridge High School.

“At the school newspaper we mail our paper out to companies and local government. It’s like they know what’s going on inside our high school and sort of what we think about everything,” she says, “because kids write about everything. It’s great that we have the opportunity to do that.”

As for student expression, Jade thinks schools play the pivotal role in encouraging it.

“It’s not so much about how the community lets you express yourself, but more about the schools,” she says.

“Teens spend most of their time in school. (At Rock Bridge) the teachers meet once or twice a month to talk about how to treat the students, but the students don’t get a chance to say what they think. Maybe they should let students get involved.”

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