Instaread Summary of American Girls Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales
Three out of five stars
First and foremost, the best line in the summary is on the first page, “Girls coming of age have long had to contend with questions of conformity, popularity, self-esteem, and competition.” Although it has been a long time since I was in the K-12 system, I remember the difficulties for both genders very well. So many changes are taking place as the transition to adulthood is being made, groups are made and reformed very quickly, sometimes over the course of a single day. Neither gender is immune to the problems stated in the quoted sentence.
Given that the problems have always existed, the proper focus should be on what is now different, which is of course the relatively permanent nature of social media. What was previously a conversation that vaporized as it took place is now part of the permanent record. This summary is good in many ways and collapses in others.
As the father of a daughter that grew up as cell phones became a necessity for teens, the problems cited here are familiar to me. “Serious crises” pop up unexpectedly and must be dealt with and being on social media is considered a necessary part of life. Car rides that used to be interesting are now silent except for the soft sounds of the thumbs on the smart phone. Therefore, much of what is reported here has been experienced on the secondary level.
There are areas where I disagree with the points made in the summary. The most significant is key takeaway eight “Male-dominated Silicon Valley bears some responsibility for the sexist, misogynistic culture it has created.” The prime feature of social media is that it is created by the users, not the creators. The person that wrote this is simple-minded and clearly has a bias that is not based on fact. Citing gender bias lawsuits as proof is absurd as every industry has had lawsuits based on gender bias. The fact that many women have experienced sexual harassment in the tech industry is also a demonstration of a societal problem that extends far beyond the tech industry. Social media is an expression of culture, not a generator of it.
My second disagreement is with the points of key takeaway five, “The recent rise of social media has presented unforeseen parenting problems, in part because the online landscape that teenagers inhabit is one with which parents have virtually zero personal experience.” As the quote in the first paragraph states, girls have always faced these problems, and since parents were once teens, they experienced the same problems. Furthermore, most modern parents also use social media, so they are familiar with the basics. To say that parents have virtually zero personal experience is nonsense.
I found this summary to be incorrect and simplistic, growing up is horrendously complicated, always has been. While social media has made it more difficult in some ways, where it counts transitioning to adulthood is still the horrendous mess that nearly all get through that it always has been.
This book was made available for free for review purposes.