What is new about how teenagers communicate through services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Do social media affect the quality of teens’ lives? In this eye-opening book, youth culture and technology expert danah boyd uncovers some of the major myths regarding teens' use of social media. She explores tropes about identity, privacy, safety, danger, and bullying. Ultimately, boyd argues that society fails young people when paternalism and protectionism hinder teenagers’ ability to become informed, thoughtful, and engaged citizens through their online interactions. Yet despite an environment of rampant fear-mongering, boyd finds that teens often find ways to engage and to develop a sense of identity. Boyd’s conclusions are essential reading not only for parents, teachers, and others who work with teens but also for anyone interested in the impact of emerging technologies on society, culture, and commerce in years to come. Offering insights gleaned from more than a decade of original fieldwork interviewing teenagers across the United States, boyd concludes reassuringly that the kids are all right. At the same time, she acknowledges that coming to terms with life in a networked era is not easy or obvious. In a technologically mediated world, life is bound to be complicated.
Ultimately I think I was bored after reading the table of contents. Not seeing any indication there that I might encounter any interesting new ground given my experience I may have to give up.
A short distance in seemed to confirm my initial bias, so I’ve ultimately decided to press on to something else which seems a bit more fruitful.
Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia
1 identity why do teens seem strange online? 29
2 privacy why do youth share so publicly? 54
3 addiction what makes teens obsessed with social media? 77
4 danger are sexual predators lurking everywhere? 100
5 bullying is social media amplifying meanness and cruelty? 128
6 inequality can social media resolve social divisions? 153
7 literacy are today’s youth digital natives? 176
8 searching for a public of their own 199 ❧
Just reading this table of contents reminds me that this “analysis of teens” seems a lot like the perennial contemplations of adults who think that the generations of teenagers coming behind them is different, weird, or even deviant.
A typical case in point is that of the greatest generation looking at the long-haired 60’s hippy teens who came after them. “Why do they like rock and roll? They do too many drugs. There’s no hope for the future.” “Damn kids. Get off of my lawn!”
Is the way that current teens and millennials react to social just another incarnation of this general idea?
As I began to get a feel for the passions and frustrations of teens and to speak to broader audiences, I recognized that teens’ voices rarely shaped the public discourse surrounding their networked lives. ❧
Again, putting this into historical context, is this sentence different for any prior period if we remove the word “networked”?
It’s been a while, but the old saw “A child should be seen and not heard” comes quickly to mind for me.
the kids are all right ❧
Given danah’s age, I would suspect that with a copyright date of 2014, she’s likely referencing the 2010 feature film The Kids are Alright.
However that film’s title is a cultural reference to a prior generation’s anthem in an eponymous song by The Who which appeared on the album My Generation. Interestingly the lyrics of the song of the same name on that album is one of their best known and is applicable to the ideas behind this piece as well.
given that I was in Nashville to talk with teens about how technology had changed their lives. ❧
I have to wonder who the sociologists were from the 60’s that interviewed teens about how the telephone changed their lives. Or perhaps the 70’s sociologist who interviewed kids about how cars changed their lives? Certainly it wasn’t George Lucas’ American Graffiti that informed everyone of the issues?
the internet? ❧
What if we replaced the words “the internet” in this piece with “the telephone” in the 1960-1970’s? I wonder how much of the following analysis would ring true to that time period? Are we just rehashing old ideas in new settings?
the more things had changed, the more they seemed the same. ❧
When they did look at their phones, they were often sharing the screen with the person sitting next to them, reading or viewing something together. ❧
Over history, most “teen technology” is about being able to communicate with their peers. From the handwritten letter via post, to the telephone, to the car, to the pager, and now the cell phone.
But many adults were staring into their devices intently, barely looking up ❧
Socially adults have created their longer term bonds and aren’t as socially attached, so while their teens are paying attention to others, they’re often doing something else: books, newspapers, and now cell phones.
few of my friends in the early 1990s were interested in computers at all. ❧
I would suspect for the time period they were all sending text messages via pager.
Unlike me and the other early adopters who avoided our local community by hanging out in chat-rooms and bulletin boards, most teenagers now go online to connect to the people in their community. Their online participation is not eccentric; it is entirely normal, even expected. ❧
There’s a broad disconnect between her personal experiences and those of the teens she’s studying. Based on my understanding, she was a teen on the fringes of her local community and eschewed the cultural norms–thus her perspective is somewhat skewed here. She sounds like she was at the bleeding edge of the internet while most of her more average peers were likely relying on old standbys like telephones, cars, and pagers. Thus not much has changed. I suspect that most teens have always been more interested in their local communities and peers. It’s danah boyd who was three standard deviations away from the norm who sought out ways to communicate with others like herself that felt marginalized. The internet made doing that far easier for her and future generations compared to those prior who had little, if any outlet to social interactions outside of the pale of their communities.
“If you’re not on MySpace, you don’t exist.” ❧
In prior generations, if you couldn’t borrow dad’s car, you didn’t exist…
Cross reference the 1955 cultural touchstone film Rebel Without a Cause. While the common perception is that James Dean, portraying Jim Stark, was the rebel (as seen in the IMDB.com description of the film “A rebellious young man with a troubled past comes to a new town, finding friends and enemies.”), it is in fact Plato, portrayed by Sal Mineo, who is the true rebel. Plato is the one who is the disruptive and rebellious youth who is always disrupting the lives of those around him. (As an aside, should we note Plato’s namesake was also a rebel philosopher in his time?!?)
Plato’s first disruption in the film is the firing of the cannon at school. While unstated directly, due to the cultural mores of Hollywood at the time, Plato is a closeted homosexual who’s looking to befriend someone, anyone. His best shot is the new kid before the new kid manages to find his place in the pecking order. Again Jim Stark does nothing in the film but attempt to fit into the social fabric around him, his only problem is that he’s the new guy. Most telling here about their social structures is that Jim has ready access to an automobile (a literal rolling social club–notice multiple scenes in the film with cars full of teenagers) while Plato is relegated to an old scooter (a mode of transport focused on the singleton–the transport of the outcast, the rebel).
Plato as portrayed by Sal Mineo in Rebel Without a Cause (1955). Notice that as the rebel, he’s pictured in the middleground with a gun while his scooter protects him in the foreground. In the background is the automobile, the teens’ coveted source of freedom at the time.
The spaces may change, but the organizing principles aren’t different. ❧