Far from being a source of isolation, the teen’s phone is a tether to loved ones; it is a personal object, a crucial connection. A study by the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda asked one thousand students in ten countries to engage in a 24-hour media fast. The students had no problem giving up TV, newspapers, or magazines. But cutting them off from the Internet made them feel alone and isolated. Across the world, even in places like Uganda and Lebanon, students said that social media is integral to their social lives and their connections with friends.
A key part of this dependence, of course, is Facebook. According to Pew, 80% of American teenagers are on Facebook, a rate borne out by our ethnographic work. In most of the communities we’ve worked in, teens will “friend” virtually everyone they recognize from school, making Facebook less like a collection of friends and more like a town hall meeting. It’s where young people learn the latest gossip, catch up with their peers, publicly reinforce relationships, and turn acquaintances into friends.Read More