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Miley Cyrus performs at IHeartRadio Music Village, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Al Powers/Powers Imagery/Invision /AP)

I'm the first to admit that Miley Cyrus' recent performance at the MTV Video Music Awards and her two newest music videos disgusted me. I was shocked by her vulgar, crude actions and complete disregard for decency and self-respect. I was infuriated that she would be so crude as to denounce her upbringing and image by putting on a show like that. But once I got over the initial shock, I began to realize: Cyrus is not significant. What she represents is.

We blame society for wrongs that we see in our world, yet we do nothing to fix them. And that's the essence of the problem: We forget that society is made up by us. Each person influences society, just as a rock dropped in a pool sends out exponential rippling effects. Yet we tend to forget how powerful we are, how powerful our influence can be.

Miley Cyrus performs at IHeartRadio Music Festival, day 2, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 in Las Vegas, NV.
Miley Cyrus performs at IHeartRadio Music Festival, day 2, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Al Powers/Powers Imagery/Invision /AP)

Root of the problem

So nothing changes. We don't realize that each of us is the root of the problem. We say that vulgar, sexualized music videos are inappropriate and disgusting. Oh, really? Explain why they have the most views on YouTube by margins of millions. We say that reality TV is stupid, and the Kardashians are stupid. Yet reality TV is a huge success, and I see people in stores snatching up magazines with covers dominated by the Kardashians.

We say teenagers are exposed to violence, sex and drugs too early, but we listen to music, watch movies and play video games that explicitly and obviously promote those things. We say that women are equal to men, yet the double standard remains. We rap to songs that objectify women in horrible ways, and we crucify Cyrus for twerking and dressing skimpily while letting Robin Thicke get off scot-free for not only agreeing to let a girl almost half his age twerk on him, but also for making music videos with basically naked women parading around him. The message to women is that their worth is denoted by their sex appeal, not their brains or values.

Does this justify Cyrus swinging around naked on a wrecking ball? Of course not. Is she to blame? Yes and no. It was her choice to do that. But perhaps her choice was influenced by the fact that America loves to be shocked. Whenever something sensational happens, we talk about it, watch it, listen to it.

The things we regard as sensational are more often negative than positive. We reward people for sinking to the lowest common denominator. It's about who can have the most provocative dance moves or the most tattoos. The media covers these topics because they know it'll bring in lots of readers and viewers, and thus lots of money. Not much is written about who dressed the classiest or who wrote a Nobel Prize-winning novel.

We have taught ourselves that attention is to be coveted, and that it doesn't matter how we achieve that attention, as long as we get it. Why take the long path to fame -- through hard work and dedication -- when you can get there so much easier by singing some lewd lyrics and fondling teddy bears and sledgehammers?

Can't stop talking

We can't blame Cyrus for taking the easy way out. We have rewarded her for it. After her VMA performance, she was the only thing people were talking about the next day. Soon after, "Wrecking Ball" captured the Vevo record for the fastest video to reach 100 million views (it took six days).

We all say how sick we are of hearing about Cyrus, of all the other people that dominate the media, famous for doing nothing. We talk a big story, but then the second that Yahoo runs a new article on what Paris Hilton wore to the grocery store, we click on it.

Society doesn't change until we do; we have the power. If nothing changes, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

The Life in Perspective board is made up of teens who write for the features sections. Emily Hoeven attends Washington High School in Fremont. Reach her at lip@bayareanewsgroup.com.