Book Review

Social Media Wellness by Ana Homayoun

Book Review by Ashley Huang

Image result for social media wellness: helping tweens and teens thrive in an unbalanced digital world

Social Media Wellness by millennial expert Ana Homanyoun is a book dedicated to “helping tweens and teens thrive in an unbalanced digital world.” Upon flipping through the pages I soon realized that the handy book’s demographic was targeted toward parents and educators. Since I’m a teen, I decided to bookmark only the sections that applied best to a teen reader.

I opened the book expecting to be bombarded by propaganda against social media, but surprisingly, the author eases in slowly, first explaining to the reader that social media is a novel tool that complicates the lives of tweens and teens. I especially agreed with how the author believes social media affect a teens life:

  • “On-all-the-time” mentality – teens barely ever have any down time to truly be by themselves because their phone is always at their fingertips
  • Raised expectations – teens compare themselves to other people and exponentially amplifies feelings of insecurity about how they look, their intelligence, their life, etc.
  • Changes the dynamic of friendships and relationships – which makes the social life of teens more complicated than adults

The book also addresses mental health and how the inbalancing of sleep, time, and relationships due to phone addiction can cause depression and anxiety. Not only that, but the book also mentions how video games tie in to the umbrella term “screen-related addiction,” which suddenly makes the term relevant to the majority of male tweens and teens. Also, having been published in 2018, the book is considerably up-to-date on current trends, mentioning hot celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner. Most importantly, I appreciated the mini-exercises sprinkled throughout to help educators and parents to encourage teens to think about their own definition of social media and how they will consciously use it.

However, maybe it’s because the book is targeted towards parents and educators, but it presents social media in a strange manner that makes it seem novel to even a teen like me. The author calls herself a “millennial expert” but mentions social networking sites I’ve never heard in my life, and also put cringy memes that are a blast from 2012 (see figure 1). Furthermore, I believe the author paints social media as a terrifying entity. For example, she stressed that when a tween creates an Instagram profile, she’s technically breaking the law because the minimum age to have an account is 13. My jaw dropped upon reading the illusion of the magnitude of this problem that the author scaled to. I’m not a psychologist, and maybe I’m just a biased teen, but I created an Instagram profile when I was 12 and I turned out just fine…

Figure 1. Today’s teens live and breathe memes. Mentioning them is good, but it’s important to remember that memes such as these are considered antiques and are no longer relevant in the meme landscape.

In addition, I grew angry when I read the promoting of parents monitoring their child’s phone. Downloading specific apps to have a constant eye on their child is an infringement of privacy. The author defends that parents should do it out of love and concern for safety, rather than fear and punishment, but a privacy violation is a privacy violation, nonetheless. I consulted my mom and she told me that she agrees with the author, which left my mouth hanging. My mom defended that she would do it out of her child not having enough self-control to go on certain websites, or not enough self-control to stop browsing the internet, but I rebutted, saying that independence is important to a teen and blocking access to sites from a teen will only make them angry and find a work-around to the sites.

Bottom line: Based on the sections I read, the author’s main point to get across is that safety is #1 with our children, and I appreciate her tactics to get teens to use social media healthily. But social media is NOT the culprit for tragic happenings that get posted online; in those cases, it’s a tool used to distribute the actions of stupid people. What the author missed is that stupid people will inevitably get hurt doing stupid things, and it’s not right to lump together and define the entire teen population as idiots who will do crazy stunts just for the likes and comments.

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