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Social Media, The Secret Lives of Teenagers, and Hook-up Culture

Nancy Jo Sales spent over two years talking to more than 200 girls about social media, sexualization, and how both have changed their lives.


Nancy Jo Sales spent the last two and half years traveling across the United States, talking to over 200 girls, ages 13 to 19. She talked to them about social media, texting, sexualization, and how all of it has impacted their lives. Sales joined the Federalist Radio Hour to talk about her new book, American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers.

Sales, author and journalist for Vanity Fair, talked to girls about their concerns with social media. “Girls are being exposed at a very young age to a lot of explicit content,” she said. “Social media sites and pornography sites are kind of conjoined at the hip…and if you have a kid on social media, it’s pretty likely that at some point they are going to see pornography.”

Even in the girls she spoke with who hated social media, Sales said she found they had anxiety about being on it all time. “I really wondered what this is doing to their brains, and even our brains,” she said. “The way that it’s all changed sex and love and intimacy–I don’t think anybody over the age of 20 has any idea what it means to be coming of age now and trying to figure out what it means to have a relationship. It affects our whole notion of intimacy.”

Later in the hour, Domenech asked Sales about how her findings relate to hook-up culture. “Being behind a screen, certainly makes boys bolder,” she said. “Girls tell me that hook-up sex is unsatisfying…because they tell me young boys just want to do what they see in porn.”

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