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It's Complicated

It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens

danah boyd
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    It's Complicated
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16643-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    One evening, in September 2010, I was in the stands at a high school football game in Nashville, Tennessee, experiencing a powerful sense of déjà vu. As a member of my high school’s marching band in the mid-1990s, I had spent countless Friday nights in stands across central Pennsylvania, pretending to cheer on my school’s football team so that I could hang out with my friends. The scene at the school in Nashville in 2010 could easily have taken place when I was in high school almost two decades earlier. It was an archetypical American night, and immediately legible to...

  5. 1 identity why do teens seem strange online?
    (pp. 29-53)

    In 2005, an Ivy League university was considering the application of a young black man from South Central Los Angeles. The applicant had written a phenomenal essay about how he wanted to walk away from the gangs in his community and attend the esteemed institution. The admissions officers were impressed: a student who overcomes such hurdles is exactly what they like seeing. In an effort to learn more about him, the committee members Googled him. They found his MySpace profile. It was filled with gang symbolism, crass language, and references to gang activities. They recoiled.

    I heard this story when...

  6. 2 privacy why do youth share so publicly?
    (pp. 54-76)

    Many teens feel as though they’re in a no-win situation when it comes to sharing information online: damned if they publish their personal thoughts to public spaces, and damned if they create private space that parents can’t see. Parent-teen battles about privacy have gone on for decades. Parents complain when teens demand privacy by asking their parents to stay out of their bedroom, to refrain from listening in on their phone conversations, and to let them socialize with their friends without being chaperoned. In the same breath, these same parents express frustration when teens wear ill-fitting clothes or skimpy outfits....

  7. 3 addiction what makes teens obsessed with social media?
    (pp. 77-99)

    In a 2009New York Timesarticle, “To Deal with Obsession, Some Defriend Facebook,” psychologist Kimberly Young, director of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery, describes dozens of teenagers she’s met who tried to quit Facebook. “It’s just like any other addiction,” Young says. “It’s hard to wean yourself.”¹

    I also came across several teens who, because of limited time, challenging social dynamics, or a need to disengage, decided to quit different social media sites.² Andrew, a white high school senior in Nashville, made a pact with a friend to leave Facebook, or to commit “Facebook suicide,” because he felt...

  8. 4 danger are sexual predators lurking everywhere?
    (pp. 100-127)

    Fred and Aaron, white fifteen-year-old friends living in suburban Texas, are avid gamers. When we first met in 2007, their mothers were present. I asked about their participation on social network sites, and they explained that they didn’t use those sites but loved sites like Runescape, a fantasy game with customizable avatars. Their mothers nodded, acknowledging their familiarity with Runescape before interrupting their children’s narrative to express how unsafe social network sites were. Something about Fred and Aaron’s gritted nod in response left me wondering how these teens really felt about MySpace and Facebook—sites that were all the rage...

  9. 5 bullying is social media amplifying meanness and cruelty?
    (pp. 128-152)

    When I met white seventeen-year-old Abigail at a Starbucks in North Carolina, I was struck by her poise. A competitive swimmer, she was applying to highly respected colleges like Georgetown and Brown. She really liked Brown, but it didn’t have a swim team as strong as those at less academically oriented schools actively recruiting her. In explaining her decision-making process, she showed the elegance and confidence of a typical upper-middle-class white teen trying to impress an adult. As our conversation continued and veered into more personal subjects, I started to notice self-doubt, particularly when issues of friendship and interpersonal conflict...

  10. 6 inequality can social media resolve social divisions?
    (pp. 153-175)

    In a school classroom in Los Angeles, Keke sat down, crossed her arms defensively, and looked at me with suspicion. After an hour of short, emotionless responses to my questions about her daily life and online activities, I hit a nerve when I asked the black sixteen-year-old to explain how race operated in her community. I saw her fill with rage as she described how gang culture shaped her life. “We can’t have a party without somebody being a Blood or somebody being a Crip and then they get into it and then there’s shooting. Then we can’t go to...

  11. 7 literacy are today’s youth digital natives?
    (pp. 176-198)

    Because teens grew up in a world in which the internet has always existed, many adults assume that youth automatically understand new technologies. From this perspective, teens are “digital natives,” and adults, supposedly less knowledgeable about technology and less capable of developing these skills, are “digital immigrants.” Two Massachusetts state government officials echoed this notion in 2010: “The children who attend school today are digital natives who think nothing of learning through the use of technology. As adults, we are digital immigrants who remember lessons delivered through film strips and overhead projectors. In a state where digital pioneers flourished, the...

  12. 8 searching for a public of their own
    (pp. 199-214)

    Not far from my hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I met a white, middle-class sixteen-year-old named Emily. As she told me about her life and what she liked to do, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic. Although she lived in a different town and went to a different school, so many of her cultural touchstones were familiar to me, including the Turkey Hill convenience stores that dotted the area and Park City, the shopping mall that attracted people for miles around. Emily told me that she loved the mall and attended many school sporting events. But as I probed, I also...

  13. appendix: teen demographics
    (pp. 215-220)
  14. notes
    (pp. 221-244)
  15. bibliography
    (pp. 245-266)
  16. acknowledgments
    (pp. 267-272)
  17. index
    (pp. 273-281)