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It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens

It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens - Danah Boyd Being a blogger means I use social media quite a bit, something which often highlights for me how technologically behind I’d be if I didn’t blog. This has made me curious about how more technologically savvy people use social media, so I was excited to see how teens who grew up with social media use these sites. In It’s Complicated, the author takes a look at teen use of the latest social media sites over the past decade, from MySpace to Facebook to Twitter. The author systematically questions the stereotypes about social media-using teens. These include the assumption that all teens are good at and potentially addicted to technology to the idea that technology has fundamentally changed the way teens interact. She supports her conclusion with facts and figures, as well as hundreds of interviews with teens and parents.

Despite leaning a little academic, this book did a great job balancing all the components I look for in good nonfiction. The interviews with teens and parents provided interesting anecdotes, but the conclusions the author made were all clearly supported by rigorous research. Many of the issues the author addressed (the possibilities of unexpected audiences, the permanency and publicity of social media communication, and the ever-changing Facebook privacy settings, for example), are relevant to adults as well as teens. While reading, I loved comparing how I use technology to how teens use technology to how people think teens use technology. I was frequently surprised by both the ways in which teen use of social media is similar to and different from my own. The whole book was surprisingly insightful and thought-provoking.

Another impressive thing Boyd did (something I think is a challenge in nonfiction) was to write a book appropriate for many audiences. The teen interviews and Boyd’s empathy for the teens make this a book every parent with a teenager should read. The teen perspectives she presented were generally reasonable once the author showed where they were coming from. I think parents would benefit from that perspective. The book was also academically rigorous, well documented with many sources for learning more. I think even someone with prior knowledge of this field of study would likely learn something from this book. However, the academic bits which were included in-text, instead of in the notes and bibliography, were so clearly explained that this is also perfect for a general audience. I would highly recommend this to parents of teens; to anyone interested in social media; and to anyone who uses social media.

This review first published on Doing Dewey.