“Social media is 95 percent of what happens in all relationships now"
February 26, 2016 12:04 PM   Subscribe

Selfies, Dating, and the American 14-Year-Old. "As crushes go from real-life likes to digital “likes,” the typical American teenage girl is confronted with a set of social anxieties never before seen in human history. Nancy Jo Sales observes one 14-year-old as she gets ready to embark on her first I.R.L. date."
posted by zarq (53 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
"the typical American teenage girl...in the kitchen of her home, an eight-bedroom house"

OK
posted by howfar at 12:07 PM on February 26, 2016 [113 favorites]


The doorbell rang and some packages came—the UPS man had two: some squishy neon-colored balls for Lily’s younger sister, Olivia, 10, and Lily’s eyeliner. “Oh, thank you!” Lily told the UPS man, signing for it.

“Don’t tell Mom,” she told Olivia, the package under her arm. “Where is Mom?”

“She took Henry to the Apple store,” Olivia said, tearing open her box of squishy balls. Henry was her brother, age 12.

Why?” Lily asked.

“To buy him a new iPhone,” Olivia said. “He broke his. He threw it at the wall when he got mad at the game he was playing. He threw it twice.”


I'm not sure the journalist is 100% on the family's side - this is the kind of scene you would expect JK Rowling to use to introduce the Dursleys.
posted by Aravis76 at 12:14 PM on February 26, 2016 [89 favorites]


Pretty much came to post the same thing. The entire opening to the story is about how rich this family is. This seems like a story about a VERY small slice of the population. All the wealth signifiers at the beginning of article and then it just segues into a discussion of vulnerability and sexual violence. Very very strange.
posted by wyndham at 12:16 PM on February 26, 2016 [6 favorites]


Man NYC school teens are all like 32 year olds on thier second divorce
posted by The Whelk at 12:19 PM on February 26, 2016 [47 favorites]


The bit about being tired of all the parties reminded me of this Dylan Moran bit.
posted by Aravis76 at 12:26 PM on February 26, 2016 [9 favorites]


Against the Girls in Trouble Genre
posted by shothotbot at 12:31 PM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


yeah this entire article reminds me of the things that drive me most insane about Boulder city council meetings and can be summed up in 2 words:

wealth poisoning.
posted by lonefrontranger at 12:49 PM on February 26, 2016 [12 favorites]


Chance of my kid getting an iPhone at age 12 = zero.

Number of dates I had at age 14, IRL or otherwise = also zero.

So I can totally relate to this story!
posted by freecellwizard at 12:53 PM on February 26, 2016 [6 favorites]


The memory episode of Still Buffering was super fascinating because apparently there's all these unwritten rules about Instagram: never more than one picture a day, there has to be some kind of flow, if a picture gets less than 60-70 Likes it gets deleted.
posted by kmz at 1:00 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


I had the same thought about the teenage 1%, but power through to where she's talking about what she and all her friends have to deal with on social media and it's better, although pretty disturbing.
posted by Huck500 at 1:06 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


Chance of my kid getting an iPhone at age 12 = zero.

I did get my son a phone at that age but fortunately iPhones where still five years in the future at that point and he hated having to carry the thing around since it meant that we could always get in touch with him. Also phones were cheap, hard to break and kept a charge for a week back then.
posted by octothorpe at 1:17 PM on February 26, 2016


I got to the social media discussion, but the writer's agenda somewhat dominates and overwhelms Lily's account of her own life. What emerges from what Lily is actually quoted as saying is much more idiosyncratic and ambivalent about internet validation, ambition and body image than what the journalist wants to say about pressure and sexualisation and creepy predators online. And I can't see what any of that has to do with Lily's date anyway, given that the date sounds like something from a wholesome 1980s TV show for tweens: they met at a science camp, they were friends for a year, they talk for hours every day, they're going on a double date to see a movie. It's just a very awkward cramming together of different elements.
posted by Aravis76 at 1:19 PM on February 26, 2016 [23 favorites]


The money part aside, this is still a look into a world that is a zillion ways different than my 70s suburban childhood. Some of it is the technology and social media and other media and the different ways people raise their children now. And some of it is just that I knew kids back then who were something like this and I didn't understand them any better than I do now.
posted by JanetLand at 1:29 PM on February 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


Was going to say something smart about this article. But instead I'll just say that Dylan Moran is the best.
posted by k8bot at 1:38 PM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have a 14 y.o daughter and thought that this may be an interesting read. From the first para, they do their best to set the kid, the family and the entire situation to be alien and painful to read. Why?

TL:DR
posted by dangerousdan at 1:52 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


12 years old is late to get a smartphone, and they cost as little as 50p a day or something now. You would be really depriving your kid of so much if you 'banned' one at that age.
posted by colie at 2:02 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


also what is up with the journalist and their weird obsession with making everything about how SHALLOW SHALLOW SHALLOW it all is? I mean okay yeah 1% suburban privilege and wealth poisoning, which is truly a thing I am here to tell you (from my leafy suburban utopia, lol). But then it seemed like maybe there were some really valid insights into tween social media culture the kid had to contribute, except that the whole tone and framing of the entire article is REALLY off-putting and by the end I kind of want to go take a shower.

in summary: ugh.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:04 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


This exchange really bothered me:

Another boy had once asked her for nudes. “Just some boy my age, I hardly knew him,” she said... “I guess it’s my fault for friending him back in the first place,” she went on[.]
posted by carmicha at 2:06 PM on February 26, 2016 [11 favorites]


>From the first para, they do their best to set the kid, the family and the entire situation to be alien and painful to read. Why?

Not going to speculate on the 'why', but it hits pretty close to home for me.

Had a very privileged upbringing in a very tech/engineering-centric community.

This sounds exactly like the kind of thing my friends and I were participating in via more rudimentary technologies (AIM, SMS, ICQ, Xanga, LiveJournal) 10+ years ago. Honestly feel like I've struggled to maintain 'real world' relationships, platonic and romantic, because social media and other tech-mediated forms of communication accounted for such a huge part of my social development.
posted by BrandonW at 2:22 PM on February 26, 2016 [7 favorites]


12 years old is late to get a smartphone, and they cost as little as 50p a day or something now. You would be really depriving your kid of so much if you 'banned' one at that age.

What?

I mean, I'm on the fence about it myself. I don't have a smartphone and I don't need one. But I would totally use it for a lot of things if I did. But that's still not a need.

I can't imagine what a teen would need a smartphone for that they couldn't do with their laptop. (They need the laptop for schoolwork anyway. Can't do your homework on a smartphone.)
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 3:29 PM on February 26, 2016


Remain in constant contact with friends for one
posted by The Whelk at 3:40 PM on February 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


She knows she's trying to stir up a moral panic, but really, really, really this time the Wolf is coming:

“The 1950s witnessed warnings about the new practice of going steady… Each generation’s critics have managed to warn about a revolution in sexual manners, even as they often failed to acknowledge the longer history of concern about youthful sexual play.”

What this point of view fails to acknowledge, however, are the ways in which the sexual behavior of teenagers actually is being changed and shaped by a thoroughly new technology, smartphones and social media, not to mention the influence of online porn. What’s avoided are the hard questions about whether these behaviors are in fact healthy or abusive or even legal, from the perspective of the age of consent. And one reason for this may not in fact be “discomfort with teenage sexuality,” as boyd suggests, but the fear of seeming less than “sex-positive” or raising a moral panic.


I truly don't see anything different here with kids spending hours on skype talking about their relationships than what I did spending hours on the phone talking about my relationships. Nor do I see any new "stranger danger" that's different when kids meet online versus when they meet elsewhere. I mean, we used to *hitchhike*!!!
posted by Maias at 4:30 PM on February 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


I can't imagine what a teen would need a smartphone for that they couldn't do with their laptop. (They need the laptop for schoolwork anyway. Can't do your homework on a smartphone.)

OMG DAAAAAAAD YOU ARE SUCH AN IMBECILE EEEEEEVERYBODY HAS ONE DON'T YOU UNDERSTANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNND
posted by Sebmojo at 4:32 PM on February 26, 2016 [9 favorites]


This is terrifying as a parent. Luckily, I don't live in the US...
posted by gen at 4:37 PM on February 26, 2016


If your cohort of friends chats and arranges outings using some app-based phone stuff and you don't have a smartphone then you always find out about something at the last minute or not at all.

It's a recipe for being lonely or at least being constantly anxious about being lonely. Framing it in terms of needs, it's your daughter's need for human contact and acceptance by her peer group.
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:37 PM on February 26, 2016 [30 favorites]


When I was that age, my friends and I spent our time listening to music. Together. In the same room. While we talked. At home or some public venue.

There was no phrase 'face time'. Didn't need one. Secrets were safely shared, without encryption.

Go ahead, sit on my lawn. I'll live.
posted by Twang at 5:44 PM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


You can use Facebook and Twitter on your laptop and text friends on your regular, not-smart phone.

oh god am I a dad now. is that how this works

I'm told I'll need a smartphone when I leave school and enter "the industry" but they haven't convinced me of that either, to be honest. I certainly want a smartphone. but I want it so that I can read fanfiction on the bus.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 5:59 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't have a smartphone and I don't need one. But I would totally use it for a lot of things if I did. But that's still not a need.

Needs versus wants is not a very useful way to divide things up...

What you need:

(1) Enough food, and balanced enough, to prevent lethal malnutrition.
(2) Enough water not to prevent lethal levels of dehydration.
(3) Shelter and/or clothing to maintain thermoregulation inside nonlethal boundaries.
(4) Whatever other interventions are required by any lethal conditions or disorders you might have.

Everything else is "want." So, yeah, smartphones are a want, not a need. Like bubblegum, sure. But also like, say, legs.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:04 PM on February 26, 2016 [7 favorites]


My son is currently grounded, and we took away his phone. we gave him a way to earn media time, and he has almost exclusively spent earned time on his phone in hangouts. We haven't given him permission to have a Facebook or instagram account. Facebook because nobody needs that distraction, and instagram because every parent I know who has a kid with an account has told me horror stories.

That said, every kid I know, from 10 on up, all have phones. It's such an integral part of their relationship to the world, that I can't even comprehend it. It's an entirely different world. I went to the school office to pick him up for a Dr appt, and the receptionist said "Do you want to text him and see if he's finished with the test?" And when I told her that he had lost phone privileges, so I couldn't do that, she looked as shocked as if I'd said I locked him in a closet.

Kids. Yard. Always on it.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:44 PM on February 26, 2016 [6 favorites]


Everything else is "want." So, yeah, smartphones are a want, not a need.

I guess it depends on whether I feel like I want to keep my job, or I need to keep my job. A subtle distinction to be sure.

Almost everyone I know with tweens provides them with phones, though in some cases I assume it is a fairly significant financial commitment. I don't have kids so I haven't had to make that kind of decision myself.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:57 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you want your kid's personality to stay completely undeveloped, give them a smartphone at a young age. If you merely want it to be under-developed, give them a smartphone around middle school. If you want to leave the possibility open for their personality to develop traits such as resilience, depth, productiveness, etc. then do the right thing and don't buy them a smartphone ever. It's like, smartphones just suck and are terrible and rarely does an adolescent need to have one.
posted by Taft at 7:11 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


you can get a regular phone that's not a smart phone

you can get a regular phone with a keyboard for texting that's still not a smart phone

and it's cheaper both up front and monthly, because smartphones require a data plan. You can't put a smartphone on a cell phone plan unless it includes data.

I'm totally up on Maslow's heirarchy of needs, social connection is a need, and it's not like tweens shouldn't have a smart phone, it's fine if they do (it won't actually retard their personal development) but it's also totally reasonable to give them a regular phone that can't go on the internet. Because they can go on the internet and make connections in other ways.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 7:16 PM on February 26, 2016


Journalist is totally not listening to her subject, who is much smarter than journalist.
posted by jfwlucy at 8:35 PM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


(it won't actually retard their personal development)

This is a hypothesis. Humans have never had anything similar to smartphones in our lives. We'll see, I guess.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:41 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


Everyone talks about the pressures of being always-connected to work via email, but as far as I can tell, that's nothing compared with being always-connected to the teenage social scene as a teen. That world moves so fast, and it's so easy to get left behind.

Especially with apps like Snapchat where instant responses with selfies are expected. When do kids get to let their guards down and just be, without feeling the need to project an image onto the world, without caring about what other people think?

Constant contact with social networks does seem like a way to stunt some aspects of unique personality development. But IANA parent nor a teen so I can't even speak anecdotally about this.
posted by mantecol at 11:03 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is a hypothesis. Humans have never had anything similar to smartphones in our lives. We'll see, I guess.

This has applied to everything from movies to steam trains to bronze tools. A central, maybe even definitive, condition of humanity is to be in situations that no human has ever been exposed to before. So, while "people will adapt to momentous technological change" is certainly a hypothesis, it is a hypothesis that has demonstrated its robustness over tens of thousands of years, and a couple of centuries of continual change to the most fundamental aspects of life.

It's possible that we will reach some sort of breaking point. But unless there's decent evidence that smartphone use causes developmental problems, the hypothesis that they will cause them looks a lot more speculative than the hypothesis that they won't.
posted by howfar at 11:13 PM on February 26, 2016 [18 favorites]


Another good reason to give your kids a smartphone is so they'll be natively literate in how social media and apps work, because the design and development and marketing of them is one of the few areas where they'll be able to make a living when they graduate.
posted by colie at 12:30 AM on February 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


If your cohort of friends chats and arranges outings using some app-based phone stuff and you don't have a smartphone then you always find out about something at the last minute or not at all.

It's a recipe for being lonely or at least being constantly anxious about being lonely. Framing it in terms of needs, it's your daughter's need for human contact and acceptance by her peer group.


That's really nicely put.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:52 AM on February 27, 2016


Chance of my kid getting an iPhone at age 12 = zero.


Two (close) kids here: featurephones at middle school (par for the course here in Italy; other parents went straight for smartphones). When kid 2 desperately pushed to upgrade to smartphone, we contributed half to a used iPhone, the other half (and the repair it's needed since he broke it...) came out of his savings. Kid 1 is saving up to go straight for a new one, making do with a smartphone we found at a campsite for now. (Also: the real cost to consider/govern is their data-plan...)


If your cohort of friends chats and arranges outings using some app-based phone stuff and you don't have a smartphone then you always find out about something at the last minute or not at all.

It's a recipe for being lonely or at least being constantly anxious about being lonely. Framing it in terms of needs, it's your daughter's need for human contact and acceptance by her peer group.


It's a major challenge for them to navigate virtualised sociality as they're defining their persona - as it is for us to gauge it, when we're similarly struggling to grasp the finer aspects of our own share of social-mediated relations (work, colleagues, school-contextual, and with our kids themselves when we're out and about).
posted by progosk at 1:45 AM on February 27, 2016


I spend more time on social media (mainly meaning here) than my kid does, and she's 14. And I've probably taken many more public smackdowns on here than she has on Snapchat. So it varies.
posted by colie at 1:52 AM on February 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


My kid has a smartphone, laptop and is currently on her PC with unrestricted internet access.
This is because I teach her how to use these things responsibly and trust (hope) that she will take those lessons on board.

We talk about the pressures around presenting femininity, peer pressure, conformity, problematic representations of women as well as digital security and permanence. Almost all of her friends haven't even discussed this with their parents they're just not allowed internet access. Until they get to school where someone turns on their hotspot.

She has a sticker over her laptop webcam and when her friends wanted her to get snapchat she refused "because of all the drama".*

I vote for engaging with your kids and helping them learn to use these things responsibly.

* she did use this as yet another opportunity for her favorite pastime of Winding Up Her Dad

Me: We need to discuss the rules about snapchat
Her: Yeah yeah I know; don't show your face
Me: *freaks out*
Her: *cackling and pointing at my expression*

posted by fullerine at 2:46 AM on February 27, 2016 [18 favorites]


I'm not sure what's worse, hearing people saying "My kids aren't going to have a cell phone until they're 18, i grew up with party lines and you don't need anything more" or "OMG if you don't give Timmy and Jenny Dylan and Brooklyn a smartphone by age six they will permanently disadvantaged or ostracized by their peers!"

Goddamn, i'm glad i don't have kids. i can honestly say my cat doesn't need a smartphone, even if she does have an Instagram account.
posted by entropicamericana at 6:44 AM on February 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


I agree that this article is a Frankenstein's monster, but the #1 most distracting thing is the financial privilege of the subject. And it's totally unnecessary, because kids can still totally be intravenously hooked to social media without being throw-your-iPhone-at-a-wall/open-access-to-parents-credit-cards spoiled. It's the most egregious aspect of the journalist trying to tint the story with unrelated elements for some misguided rhetorical effect, though there are others.
posted by zeusianfog at 7:53 AM on February 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


kids can still totally be intravenously hooked to social media without being throw-your-iPhone-at-a-wall/open-access-to-parents-credit-cards spoiled

Yeah, I had a quick look and within 10 seconds found a deal on an Android 4.4 smartphone in the UK for £5 a month, no upfront payment, 250MB data. At the (much) lower end of the market you can of course purchase stolen phones in the playground.
posted by colie at 10:49 AM on February 27, 2016


Last time I looked at plans they were $30 a month. I should look again.

and you still don't need a smart phone to be wildly hooked in to social media.

(i just told my dad that i was deprived, and he pointed at my laptop, on which I am currently talking to people literally right now)
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 12:09 PM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


My kid has an iPhone, because I am fantastically rich and don't love him and want him to fail at life. Or possibly because he goes on 20+ mile bike rides and pay phones don't exist any more, and iPhones work well as far as setting up family sharing for apps and photos and location sharing (oh god why can't we just let him be lost like we were all lost in the 1970s, we almost all survived). You get buy them used. You can get them included in your family plans. iPhones are not inherently big deals.

Replacing a phone that a kid throws, though, yeah, that's messed up.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:08 PM on February 27, 2016


> Can't do your homework on a smartphone

Many low-income families have smartphones and no other computers, and the kids do, in fact, have to do their homework on the smartphone.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:10 PM on February 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


Consider the Vanity Fair audience for a minute.

From Condé Nast's press materials. Looking at this, the strange tone of the writing and everything else makes all the sense in the world.

Median Age
45.2

Median HHI
$76,097

Gender - Male/Female
21.5%/ 78.5%

Education - Any College
73%

Employment - Employed FT or PT
61%

Employment - Professional/Managerial/Executive
29%

PROFILE OF AFFLUENT AUDIENCE

Age - Age 25 - 54
55%

Household Income - Median HHI
$160,812

Gender - Male/Female
29% / 71%

Education - Any College
95%

Employment Status - FT or PT/ Professional or Executive
79%
posted by blucevalo at 2:16 PM on February 27, 2016


My guess is that those two groupings would probably map relatively well onto Mefites too, though. Lots of us are not affluent, but there are many more people with college educations and professional jobs than in the general population, here.

I think the article really is just really weird. The writer was lucky to get a load of good, insightful material from the interviewee, and squandered it for some unfathomable reason.
posted by howfar at 3:44 PM on February 27, 2016


This an adapted excerpt from a book, which may be why it flows awkwardly. I think this girl has a good head on your shoulders and is far more thoughtful about the issues at hand than many kids her age.

When I was in junior high (mid-80s), there was a period during which my ridiculously stubborn father got into a dispute with the phone company over a long-distance bill and so we didn't have a home phone. I had to walk to the nearest pay phone (at a skating rink) to call my friends. Social leprosy.
posted by candyland at 3:04 PM on February 28, 2016


It's a recipe for being lonely or at least being constantly anxious about being lonely.

Actually, it's *one* recipe for being alone. Whether you're 'lonely' when alone is up to you. Some of us actually *like* being alone. Some of us quite often. It's when we discover the value of things that most people haven't discovered the value of.

If your 'friends' can't find you in any way to let you know about something going on, maybe they aren't really your 'friends' after all. (Damn ... look at the damage that's been done to that word.) My 'face-time' friends always have. After all, there's this thing called e-mail. Useful for those times when *I feel* like being interrupted.
posted by Twang at 5:23 PM on February 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wish this book wasn't such an obvious attempt to scare people about their teenage daughters.

It might have been worth reading and had something to say.
posted by msalt at 8:31 PM on February 29, 2016


Some of us actually *like* being alone.
Being alone is one of the most important skills to learn.
Especially when talking about the horrendous pressure to seek external validation young girls are under.
posted by fullerine at 11:36 PM on February 29, 2016


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