One paragraph reads:
“The girls themselves are conflicted about social media. They possess a critical attitude towards it but often seem un-self-reflective in their own practices. Girls, they acknowledge, post pictures of their assets because they get more “likes” that way. And if the boys like you, the girls at school will, too. However, many feel that the girls posting cleavage are insecure and doing it for attention. Many feel uncomfortable because they feel like girls are in competition with each other to look the most attractive. And yet most of these same girls admit that they participate in similar behavior because they want attention, too. And they say they can’t give up social media because they would then “have no lives”–even though the lives they describe seem stressful and isolating. These young teenage girls then grow into college students who mourn the hookup culture, feeling compelled to participate even though they say it makes them unhappy and they despair of ever finding a man who is truly interested in them and not their bodies.”
– Nancy Jo Sales, author of ‘American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers
The author of the blog post, which is a reflection of this book, then goes on to discuss how ‘one-sided’ the book seems- and I agree. The biggest issue with this post is the extreme generalizations going on here; the author simply refers to these people as ‘girls’ and ‘boys’, which does not specify even an age or any other specifics. This leads me to believe that this author is extremely biased towards the negativity of social media on all young boys and girls, believing that it is creating a generation of attention-seeking girls who will do just about anything to appeal to the masses. Also, notice the lack of attention on the male perspective. Just as the author discusses the hyper-sexualization of girls, she also easily dismisses young men as disrespectful and objectifying misogynists. What is this saying about our society? Even if the moral of the story is focused on the destructiveness of social media on young girls, why is the author portraying these girls as if they are unable to resist harmful new trends? We should not be focusing on the girls’ inability to resist but why they feel as though it is necessary for them to take part in destructive behavior such as sending explicit photos to other young boys. The author of the book later discusses how worrying this is for parents; they believe that any teenager with a cellphone will automatically use it to expose themselves or others. Even this statement suggests that angsty, curious, and rebellious teenagers are indeed the root of the problem here, when that is not the case. This type of language possibly even supports a culture of victim-blaming, body shaming, and oppression of female sexuality.
On the other hand, a part of me does understand where the author is coming from. Any adult looking in on the world of social media and hearing horror stories of girls who expose themselves on the internet would assume that our generation of young women aren’t anything admirable. However, it is absolutely wrong of us to believe that statement comes solely from a young woman’s own inability to make good decisions. Our generation is dealing with a completely new aspect of society: constant connection. And although that comes with many benefits, it also allows young people very easy access to negative things such as expectations of beauty or ability to immediately make absolutely anything known to the world. But when adults and authors like Nancy Jo Sales make the decision to break down the girls instead of the horrendously toxic circumstances they are under, young girls themselves will continue to shame each other and believe that blaming one another is the path they should take. If that’s all they know, why wouldn’t they?
Perhaps one of the first steps towards a better understanding is for adults assessing the topic to change their tone of voice- instead of criticizing an entire generation of girls and discrediting their abilities to make logical choices, ask, how can we help? Where are you coming from? How do you think your experience is different than mine, and how can I better understand? If, as a society, we can offer alternative interpretations of young female behavior instead of shaming or demeaning them, and if we further our research in this area to assure accurate causality, we will be uplifting an entire generation and defining appropriate next steps.