This week's reading, "It's Complicated," peered into the lives of young people who use social media. Many of the topics resonated with me. Although I am no longer a teenager, much of what was discussed was around when I was a teen as well. I could most definitely relate to the students' excitement toward using social media and technology for projects in school; my classmates and I were encouraged to do the same. I am the first to acknowledge, though, that social media among young users is now higher than ever. This book looks at these teens' networks and attempts to explain to older folks the motivations behind their use of social media.
Interviewing students as candidly as boyd did was the proper way of gaining the insight needed to learn as much as possible among these teens. This gave teens the opportunity to be as forthcoming as possible, leaving out the mundane process of say filling in a survey. What was also pretty incredible about boyd's research was that she also interviewed parents, teachers, librarians, etc., which broadened her understanding of their viewpoints concerning teenage social media use. boyd's research indicated that even though parents often look at teens' social media use as a negative, the opposite is often true. For instance, she explains how this negativity often prompts parents to believe that simpler lives (without social networking) would be ideal, but this is not the case. She also explores the notion that media tends to blow out of proportion the small instances of the negative aspect of social networking (e.g. online bullying). This is just not always the case, and it was fitting that she pointed it out. Would the internet be more inclusive if presumptions were nixed?
Adults should also understand what boyd says about the reason that social networking is positive after all. She explains that kids, at one time, could meet in public places available to them, but that now the dynamics have changed. She uses the mall as an example. At one time, she says, the mall was a place that teens could go to "hang out," but that now it is a thing of the past. Such "loitering" is not allowed. Social networking sites offer the same kinds of benefits reaped from hanging out at the mall. I had never really thought about the logic here, but I agree. There are very few places for teens to go just to hang out and talk. I am in my twenties and I sometimes find it hard to "find something to do" or somewhere to go, so I can imagine how difficult it would be for a teenager to do the same. At least I can drive to either a bar or a casino if I want to meet up with friends. I can see more clearly now why teens would desire to be interconnected with friends via social media. In the past, teens could ride a bike to a grocery store or to a library or restaurant, but now that is not an option due to safety issues that did not exist during that time. It is important to realize how secluded teens could potentially be without social networking.
This book was great for explaining the motivations of social media use among teenagers. It quite literally looked into the minds of teens and explored their desire for connectedness among friends. This book changed my mind about teenage use of social media. The negativity initially determined from this use has been countered with boyd's research. I would recommend anyone in the field of communication to study her findings and to read the book.