It’s Complicated

June 23, 2014 non-fiction, Psychology 17

18342787 (1)Title: It’s Complicated
Author: Danah Boyd
Source: from publisher via NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Summary: Even though this book had an academic bent, everything was explained clearly and the mix of research with anecdotes and ethical questions made for some fascinating reading.

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.

17 Responses to “It’s Complicated”

  1. Shannon @ River City Reading

    It sounds like this is approaching teenage use of technology from an angle I’d be really interested in (the one that doesn’t think all the computers need to be locked in closets). Glad to hear it’s both interesting and well researched – definitely want to pick this up!

  2. Naomi

    The biggest challenge I have with my 13-year-old daughter is the amount of time she spends on social media. I try to limit it, and she feels like I don’t trust her. Sigh… Sometimes I wish it didn’t exist, but I know that will get me nowhere. I think I might need to read a book like this.

    • DoingDewey

      I would highly recommend it! As a blogger, you probably understand where your daughter is coming from more than some parents, but I definitely gained some new perspective from this book. It seems that teens already use social media far differently than I used it in high school!

  3. Jennine G.

    This sounds really interesting! Was there anything about how it’s changed their reading and writing abilities? That’s what I’d be interested in hearing about.

    • DoingDewey

      Unfortunately, no. It discussed the dangers teens might face from predatory adults and about the fact that teens use social media in a fairly healthy way – for socializing, since there are far fewer public spaces teens can physically congregate than used to be the case – but didn’t talk much about the academic aspects of social media use.

      • Jennine G.

        Darn. That’s such a huge piece with teens and technology. I’ve only taught nine years and I can see a huge difference between when I started and texting was barely a thing, to now when the kids have grown up with it.

        • DoingDewey

          That’s interesting! So based on your personal experience, do you think teens’ reading and writing abilities have been negatively impacted by their use of social media?

          • Jennine G.

            Hmm…maybe more technology in general than just social media. Texting language and auto correct have definitely affected abilities for writing, spelling, and grammar. And research has shown that reading from a computer screen is not the same as reading from paper, so comprehension and reading flow/ability are limited. The brain is not worked the same way. (Ereaders that replicate a book experience, however, are fine. The brain gets the same work out.) And other than a computer screen, reading itself is a limited activity within the majority.

            • DoingDewey

              That makes sense! Thanks for sharing. It’s really too bad the book didn’t include this aspect of technology because it seems very interesting!

  4. Joy Weese Moll (@joyweesemoll)

    Hopping over from the Nonfiction Reading Challenge…(still)

    This sounds like a book I’d be interested in. Since I have a blog, I’m actually much more involved in social media than the younger people that I know in real life.

    • DoingDewey

      I think I’m more involved with social media than most of my friends, especially twitter, maybe less so Instagram. However, from the sounds of this book, it seems as though high school students are much more involved with facebook and twitter than they were when I was in school, maybe close to as involved as I am now. The research in this book is a few years out of date, so I’m curious if that is still true. Either way, it’s something that surprised me about this book.

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