December 16, 2014 non-fiction, Review, Self-Help 10 ★★

FacehookedTitle: Facehooked
Author: Suzana E. Flores
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: The anecdotes in this book were fascinating but the information was both obvious enough to be boring and not obvious enough to justify the nearly complete lack of citations.

I love books about the way technology affects our lives, so I was excited to hear what psychologist Suzana Flores thought about the way Facebook can influence our mental health. After noticing that many of her clients had Facebook related complaints, Dr. Flores began interviewing people specifically about their experiences with Facebook.  In Facehooked, she shares many of the stories she heard, discusses some of the problems she believes Facebook can cause, and offers some advice for fighting bad Facebook habits.

The anecdotes in Facehooked were my favorite part. It’s amazing the crazy things people do. Some of the behavior in this book is clearly Facebook-specific, such as hounding friends for “Likes”, and some could happen anyway, such as stalking an ex, but it’s all interesting. If this were simply a collection of anecdotes, I’d have loved it. Unfortunately, the author also makes wide-ranging generalizations without references to back them up. Many of the things she says sound reasonable, such as her claim that Facebook is changing our understanding of how to engage with others or her claim that a mismatch between our Facebook presentation of ourselves and our real selves will cause cognitive dissonance. They’re also things I could hear from anyone with a negative opinion of Facebook though and the predictability made this book somewhat boring.

Although the author’s claims didn’t feel novel, they were still very broad claims and they needed to be backed up by research. Sadly, in the whole book , the author references specific research approximately twice. She mentions “studies” without a citation four or five times and cites the sort of non-academic sources one could find via a quick google search another half dozen times. And that’s it in terms of references.  Because of the lack of references, even though I found this book a generally enjoyable read, it let me down. I don’t pick up a nonfiction book to have an author to regurgitate common ideas on a subject without verification. Even if the author had simply presented research supporting common opinions, I would feel like I’d learned something, but the lack of sources makes me think I just wasted my time learning someone else’s opinions instead of learning the facts. 

To be fair, it should be noted that what I have might be a review copy (although from my communication with the publisher, I don’t think it is). I e-mailed the publisher 9 days ago asking about references and double-checking if what I have is a review copy. I’ll update my review if I hear anything back. As is, I’m left with the impression that this is a particularly poor example of pop science. If you want to learn about social media, I’d recommend instead picking up the extremely interesting and well-researched It’s Complicated by Danah Boyd.

10 Responses to “Facehooked”

  1. Kelly

    How unfortunate!! It sounds like the author didn’t give her “study” the time it really deserved. It’s disheartening when someone with a doctorate doesn’t use proper citations…

    • DoingDewey

      I found that pretty depressing myself! I don’t think anyone should be able to come out of a PhD without understanding how important sources are.

  2. Briana @ Pages Unbound

    Interesting. I’m always on the fence about pop science, too, because I have enough education to be skeptical and want real numbers and real research–but not enough education in science to probably be able to understand the nitty gritty of all that research!

    That said, it sounds as though Flores conducted interviews as her “research.” Maybe there aren’t too many students on social media use she can reference (I don’t know), but in that case she should at least be up front about that, and acknowledge that the work she is doing is a great starting point for further research–and note that (what seems to be) a small sample size of interviewees cannot offer definitive conclusions.

    • DoingDewey

      I agree, what she’s done could definitely be helpful and it’s possible I’m being a bit hard on her for the lack of citations. The reason it bothered me is that she does make broad claims and doesn’t qualify them at all, so I worry that someone who isn’t scientifically inclined would read this and assume everything she’s saying is supported by facts when it seems to me that it’s mostly opinion.

      In terms of pop science in general, I always admire authors who manage to strike a good balance between being accurate and writing something approachable. I’m sure it’s incredibly hard, especially since you don’t know precisely how educated your readers are likely to be. I know I have different expectations of books that are in and out of my area of expertise and I’m just one reader! I love when I find a book that strikes the right balance for me 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      I’d be very curious about that myself! Based on the author’s website, she does a lot of talk shows. That kind of concerns me, because I’m worried she’s telling people things that sound reasonable but which are just opinion but since she’s an authority, people will take what she says as fact. I don’t know how well her book has done though.

  3. Jancee @ Jancee Reads

    I wonder how she could get away with that as a psychologist. Through school and then through professional development, the importance of research and citing and solid writing is hammered into you. Maybe she was trying to make it more accessible for the masses, but sounds like it became a weaker book because of it.

    • DoingDewey

      I found the surprising as well. I admit, I didn’t look into her education at all (although now that I think of it, I probably will), but the fact that she’s a psychologist gave me high hopes that this book would be well-researched. It is possible she decided against a more nuanced view in order to make the book more accessible, but for me, it made the book nearly useless.

  4. Leah @ Books Speak Volumes

    Ooh, the lack of solid references would be a deal-breaker for me. The Internet is FULL of opinions that aren’t backed up by research; I expect something that has gone through the rigors of publishing to point to actual, verified information.

    • DoingDewey

      Yes! Exactly! At the point I’m reading a book, I want to be able to trust it more than something I randomly read online. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have bothered with a book.

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