Sales, N.J. 2016. American girls: Social media and the secret lives of teenagers. New York: Random House.
The author of this book travelled across the country and interviewed teenagers to figure out how they use social media. Armed with plenty of research to legitimize what she hears, she gives the nitty, gritty, ugly truth about how Instagram, Whisper, Yik Yak, Vine, YouTube, Kik, Ask.fm, and Tinder have changed how teens (especially girls) interact with each other. She describes how social media stars have changed how girls grow up. She describes how teens idolizing figures like Kim Kardashian, who has made millions off promoting her own nudity online, has normalized this dangerous type of behavior. In addition, the many, many makeup tutorial stars on youtube have ensured that even preteens have the tools needed to look flawless, a necessity in social media platforms that encourage instant judgment. In fact, this pressure to look flawless all of the time has done much to harm the self esteem and image of today’s young girls. She talks about how dating has changed, with more and more interactions taking place online in an environment in which consequences are easier to ignore and risks are easier to take. With pornography being so easily accessible, the teenage culture has become hypersexualized, struggling between extreme sexism and feminism. Lastly, bullying has been much more pervasive in the lives of modern teens, since they are constantly connected in the online world. Much of what she reports proved to be consistent across race, geography, and socioeconomic status. She ends with a call to action; we as adults must be aware and make legislative changes in order to help our teens navigate the new challenges that they face in our evolving world.
This was a compelling read; I could barely put the book down. Even people who have teenagers and work with teenagers don’t know the extent of the depravity of the expected behavior being pushed by social media, modern celebrities, and the accessibility of adult content online. If libraries are going to stay relevant in the modern age, we must understand the world that our patrons live in. I hear often that we need to engage the community on social media so it is of paramount important that we understand how it is currently being used so that we can either fit in the landscape or be a part of the change to advance the human condition.