WHAT: AMERICAN GIRLS:
Social Media and the Secret Lives of Girls
WHEN: Published by Knopf February 23, 2016
WHERE: The author lives in New York.
WHY: “This book is an ice-cold, important wake-up call.
“What happens to teenage girls when their social lives play out online? Teenagers have always excelled in befuddling their parents and teachers. While it’s an embraced cliché for parents to discuss how different things were when they were that age, it’s undeniable that social media has profoundly influenced the experience of teens in ways that older generations find difficult to comprehend.
“Nancy Jo Sales provides an excellent primer for understanding how the crucible of adolescence has moved to the digital world. This is not the first such book, but Sales impressively balances the specifics of what is happening online currently with the broader implications for boys and girls — no simple task given the rapidly shifting digital landscape, with the next big thing consistently eclipsing the popular medium of the moment.
“It would be easy to suggest that, despite the different battlefield, the kids are going through the same things kids have always gone through. But the author makes a compelling case for understanding the differences in both the quantity and quality of today’s online dangers. Having interviewed dozens of teenagers — mostly female — she explores a wide range of topics involving body image, the ways boys treat girls, the ways girls treat girls, and the different forms of competition generated by seemingly endless online arenas.
“Sales delves into the debate about which ideas constitute feminist empowerment and which are more misogynistic ploys to sell empowerment to girls while simultaneously endangering them. The author discovered that, despite conflicting statistics, there’s an extremely high likelihood that most teenagers have watched pornography online — or will soon. Sales takes a broader view than simply being the scold of technology; she spoke with teens who point out the empowerment possibilities of a smartphone: being able to document injustices as they happen and broadcast them to the world.”
“An intelligent, history-grounded investigation…Parents, educators, administrators, and the purveyors of social media platforms should all take note of this thoughtful, probing, and urgent work.”
—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, starred review
“This book’s calling card is its refrain:
the real-life teens (and preteens) whose hanging-at-the-mall interactions Sales transcribes with heartbreaking fidelity. Theirs is a 24-hour marathon of posting carefully edited pictures to fish for approval, deliberating over the call for nudes from boys whose Axe Body Spray can be smelled through the phone, and desperately wanting to be a ‘cool girl’ rather than a ‘prude.’ It’s all here: MILFs, dick pics, smizing, fuckboys, doxing, belfies, and twatching, much of which plays out on social networks parents have never heard of. Despite Sales’ tendency to panic, the girls profiled emerge as oddly heroic: struggling, persevering, and thriving through what Sales calls ‘a kind of unease, a sort of buzzing, rushing, anxious state.’” —Daniel Kraus, BOOKLIST