Context Book Assignment: It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens

Context Book Assignment: It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens

Ever since its creation the internet has continued to evolve. Social media and social networking are just a byproduct of the internet’s evolution. With the creation of social media sites such as MySpace and Facebook the number of children and teens using social media are increasing constantly. This situation has caused parents to question the impact social media has amongst teens. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (2014)by Danah Boyd sheds insight on the topic and argues that social media isn’t as dangerous as parents believe it to be. I chose this book because it sounded interesting and was suggested by Professor Stephens. “I would suggest it should be required reading not only for parents and educators but also for librarians of all stripes. Boyd notes that “most teens are not compelled by gadgetry as such—they are compelled by friendship. The gadgets are interesting to them primarily as a means to a social end. ”” (Stephens, 2016, p. 24)

In the book Boyd focuses on multiple topics such as identity, privacy, addiction, danger, bullying, inequality, literacy, and how teens search for a space of their own. Boyd shared that many teens change their self-presentation online based on their audience friends, parents, and authority figures. Boyd (2014) stated that “the imagined audience defines the social context” (p. 32). The different social media platforms can also change how teen identities are presented online. Each platform influences how the teens act based on the different social norms. It is because of these factors that adults shouldn’t judge a teen’s identity based on their online profile or identity.

Though teens are willing to share information about themselves through social media it doesn’t mean that they don’t want privacy as well. Boyd (2014) found that “When teens – and, for that matter, most adults seek privacy, they do so in relation to those who hold power over them.” (p. 56). It has reached the point that teens are using social steganography “hiding messages in plain sight by leveraging shared knowledge and cues embedded in particular social contexts”. (p. 65) The online parental surveillance of teens could create a rift of distrust between the two groups.

The book brought up the issue that teens are addicted to social media and may become unsocial. To many of the teens social media is an outlet and an opportunity to reclaim some sense of agency and some semblance of social power. (Boyd, 2014, p. 98) As for being unsocial, it is the opposite, social media allows teens to engage in social interaction while learning about the world and about themselves. I especially liked Boyd’s quote “Being addicted to information and people is part of the human condition: it arises from a healthy desire to be aware of surroundings and to connect to society.” (p. 92)

No matter how useful or good a tool it is it can still be turned into a harmful weapon. Boyd agrees that online-initiated sexual assaults is possible but claims that many of those crimes happen offline and that sex crimes towards minors has been declining since 1992. (p. 111) Many of the parent fears of online sexual assaults come from the media that are distorted or blown out of proportions.

Boyd ends her book by pointing out that teens turn to social media or online spaces for a sense of freedom and belonging. These online spaces grant teens the opportunities to explore and learn about the world, while getting involved themselves.

It is important for libraries to reach out to teens and the public through social media and social networks. Casey (2007) stated in his book Library 2.0 that “Many libraries have started building presence in MySpace and Facebook by creating profiles.” (p. 90). Libraries can use social networks to provide outreach services to the public through posts. The libraries could also use these social networks to receive feedback from their patrons and the public on ways to improve their services like other hyperlinked libraries are doing. The world has change with the inclusion of the new technologies and the libraries have to improve their techniques for promoting library services. Libraries can no longer just rely on newsletters, advertisements, or newspapers, and etc. to communicate with the community. The potential aid that social media can provide to libraries especially hyperlinked ones is too great to ignore.

Danah Boyd discusses her book. This video is over an hour long so watch if you are interested.


Boyd, D. (2014). It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens. Yale University Press.

Casey, M. E. and Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0 a guide to participatory library service. Information Today, Inc.

Microsoft Research. (2016, August 4). It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens [Video file]. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2016). The heart of librarianship: Attentive, positive, and purposeful change. ALA Editions.

One Response »

  1. I read this book as well for the assignment and loved it. I think it’s relevant not just for how libraries can use social media to connect with teens but how they can connect with teens by giving them that in-person hangout space they desire in a way that also provides for teachable moments in digital literacy and other technologies. If teens can’t have the mall back, libraries have to assure parents that they’re the cool safe place for teens to hang out.

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