With our San Dieguito Book Club set for tonight, I’ve had a number of folks come to me with ideas and questions about the subject of our discussion, danah boyd’s book It’s Complicated.
My favorite comments have come from students, who have their own ideas about the issues raised in the book, and who shared their thoughts when I asked them some of the questions boyd uses to frame her argument about “the social lives of networked teens.”
With just hours to go, not everyone who has an opinion may have time to read the book, not even the free PDF of It’s Complicated, so I’ll use this post as a cram session of sorts, a shortcut to encourage folks to attend tonight, even if it’s just to listen.
Boyd uses these questions as the backbone of her book, building a chapter around each as she addresses the parents and educators who live and work with students.
- Why do teens seem strange online?
- Why do youth share so publicly?
- What makes teens obsessed with social media?
- Are sexual predators lurking everywhere?
- Is social media amplifying meanness and cruelty?
- Can social media resolve social divisions?
- Are today’s youth digital natives?
One question that generated a great deal of conversation as I talked with students was the second, about sharing “so” publicly, and a couple of answers worth passing on came from thoughtful students who wrote:
I really think a lot of it has to do with social games, and comparing yourself to others. I am guilty of this too, which is why I limit my social media, hence not having an “instagram” or “facebook”, which to most of my friends is “absurd”. And even though many people might not have the intent to show off or be trying to impress or make others jealous, I think that’s a big subconscious reason. … Especially with teens, although I hesitate to admit it, we are all insecure, and in a way I think social media is a coping way for many teens and their insecurities. “I look good in this photo, so I’m going to post it”, the amount of times I have heard that exact line from friends, haha. It is really helping with their self confidence, yet like anything I also believe social media can have very negative impacts on confidence as well. That’s a whole different story though.”
This kind of thoughtful reflection is not the exception, but the rule with regard to the students I talked with. So too was a level of objectivity that might surprise someone who doesn’t work with students.
This question is unclear about what it means to share so publicly, but there are reasons why the younger generation shares so much of their lives to the world. The easiest, more generic answer would be, because they can. We are growing up in a world where we have, at our fingertips, a portal into the lives of billions of people online. And just like a kid who is newly born into the world, we are exploring the turf that we were born into to. In this case, we were born into a world that is connected by the internet. The reason teens share so much is because they can, without realizing that there may be consequences in response to the content that they are posting. But our youth is finally given a venue to express themselves, to share with the world what they have never been able to share so freely in the past, and that is, “look at what I can do,” “look at what I made,” “look what I’ve been, what I’m doing,” and the most importantly, “look at who I am.”
In addition to thoughts about the quantity of sharing, students were open to discuss the quality of what they shared. Some talked about the lack of importance of the information they put online, while others discussed context and the audience they believed would see what they posted as meaningful.
It’s Complicated author danah boyd has talked about some of these same ideas in interviews she gave when the book first was published. Three worth a look are:
So what will tonight’s discussion look like? I hope the students, parents, and educators who come will bring with them open minds and personal stories. I hope to put a San Dieguito face on boyd’s ideas, seeing how her more general observations from across the country jibe, or don’t, with what our students experience in this Mustang blue corner of the world.
If you’ve read the book, or even if you haven’t, I hope you might join us for conversation tonight, October 16, 2016 from 6:00-8:00 pm in our Media Center.