What is EMO all about? | Youth Group Games, Youth Ministry Resources, Youth Group Ideas

What is EMO all about?

Understanding the mystery of the EMO subculture

For anyone for whom this remains a question or mystery...take comfort that defining EMO is something that kids who adhere to this subculture group ALSO discuss, even argue with each other over.

The name 'Emo' is broadly speaking a shortening of "Emotional." As a label, it is not very useful - because for a teen to join "the EMO's" is a tribal thing, not an academic or strictly socially defined 'membership.' As it has ascended and become popular, it has interbred with other more angular tribal groups - goths & punks.

One kid from the paper put it well:

"The concept of EMO means emotionally confused and emotionally challenged.
Some people say it's 'emotional,' but that's way off. Everyone is emotional at some stage."

How right he is - this is more of a highly stylised movement, to which youths come and go when it suits their current experimental mood or felt needs. Not every kid will be even interested in 'EMO' or in becoming one; in fact some young blokes that I work with tease the "EMOs" - making fun of their 'whining.'

The focus upon them, and media panic, is probably due to the darker side of the movement's emotional discourse - it is common among them to share their feelings of depression, hurt and alienation. The suicide of two Victorian girls - Jodie Gater and Stephanie Gestier - has only fuelled the fires of panic; as both of the girls subscribed in one way or another to an EMO lifestyle. The focus of warnings to parents of teenagers, has been the limitation of their teens' access to the world wide web, and in particular "MySpace" - the do-it-yourself website service by which many kids send each other messages & express themselves in a stylised 'online' way.

I'm inclined to say "don't panic" to people asking me about EMO and whether parents & carers should be watching out for danger. I would say 'ALWAYS be supervising and watching' anyway.
But NOT because kids have discovered "MySpace" as a medium that is 'secret' from their parents. Rather, it's loving and responsible for us to have a high level of unobtrusive presence and supervision, surrounding our teens every day, where possible. This is an 'authoritative boundary' which they need, particularly because their emotional life really can go up and down.

What frightens me is the idea that kids in our homes or schools may have whittled right down their
'bank' of interested adults, to a thin line of peers. The subcultural ghetto takes on a spiritual and communal air for them then, because adult alternatives which they are MADE for are simply not present enough to shape them.

Kids are ALWAYS going to have secrets - it's basic to being a teenager and healthily separating from dependency upon mum and/or dad. I like this comment from Andrew Street - who edits "Drum Media," a popular street music & culture mag:

"The secret life of a teenager may be the core of their joy as much as a key to their misery. Black eyeliner need not discount the possibility of a silver lining."

So I'm not against "EMO", or most subcultures for that matter (Goths make me nervous, but I'm dealing with it.) They are just the outward show that our teens have always and will always use amongst themselves: A way of....

* Identifying with something
* Getting Support
* Searching for feedback on their own identity

Not to mention... the great hair styles, eye makeup and skinny-leg black jeans. Hey, we all bought into one look or another as teenagers, didn't we? (Personally, i had a crack at the long-hair-black-tshirt-angry-attitude clique of 'the metal heads,' in the late 1980's & early 90's.)

The news about kids and EMO isn't simply "aint it awful!" (but media experts love to
say it is. That doesn't give a balanced look at both sides of a story, but does make you read their article first...)

Let this articulate little EMO 15 year-old give you a take-home thought:

"You see another side of being a teenager when you're EMO.
You see a side that most people don't see (in teenagers.)
That's also the hard part about being IN the EMO scene;
You'll see a harder side of life. "

Well, life IS difficult... I'm glad they're learning that early on.