In Conversation: Nancy Jo Sales

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Heather Reisman and Nancy Jo Sales

July 1, 2016

To be completely honest, I am a terrible reader and I definitely have the track record to prove it. Although I have quite an extensive book collection (covered in cobwebs), I couldn’t tell you the ending of any of them. I have mastered the art of beginning books and never finishing them.

Given my rocky relationship and commitment problems with books, I had never once thought of attending a book talk with an author before. Actually, what’s worse is that I was completely unaware these talks happen all the time, and that some bookstores actually have event calendars! I was exposed to a whole new world when one of my classmates shared an Indigo ‘In Conversation’ event with me and suggested I check it out. After doing a bit of research on the book, I made the decision to attend the event and begin a new chapter (pun intended) of my life…one where I actually finish books. I thought listening to a discussion held in a bookstore, would help breathe some new life into me and give me some inspiration to get cracking on kicking this nasty habit.

The discussion was held on the bottom level of the Bay Bloor Indigo bookstore, and the Chief Booklover of Indigo, Heather Reisman, was the one moderating the conversation with award-winning Vanity Fair writer Nancy Jo Sales. The discussion was on Sales’ newest book American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, which details the disturbing truths about the dark side of social media, and how social media platforms are essentially destroying the innocence of children and teens growing up today.

My whole inspiration for starting this blog was based on my personal observations of destructive trends happening on social media. A couple of years ago, I began to notice an alarming increase of hyper-sexualized posts coming from females (especially very young females) on all social media platforms, but I had yet to discover all the external factors that were simultaneously contributing to this trend. This discussion provided me with the answers to all my questions I didn’t know I had.

Did you know that kids are now watching porn as young as the age of six, even though it’s illegal? Did you ever give any thought to the connection between the ‘bro culture’ of Silicon Valley maintaining sexism in the tech industry, and how this works to support the toxic trends currently being observed? Did you know kids are spending an average of 9-11 hours per day on their mobile devices? Are you familiar with the term ‘slut page’, and how these pages are essentially self-generated pornography by children, being shared non-consensually?

I didn’t know any of this.

I was absolutely BLOWN AWAY  listening to Sales discuss certain aspects of her book and her corresponding research. What really mortified me was that I had no idea I was that out of touch with reality. I mean, I’m not that old. I’m a millennial, turning 25 later on this year, and I am someone who uses social media everyday, frequently. I was completely and utterly stunned to find out that I was so oblivious and unaware as to how serious and deeply rooted these issues really are for teens growing up in this day and age. A recurring theme, and what I found particularly fascinating, was how many times the role of porn was mentioned throughout the talk, and how this is one of the huge contributing factors to the disastrous state we are currently experiencing. The discussion also touched on the pressure social media places on girls to produce hyper-sexual content, and how this sexualization of girls has been linked to misery and a wide range of mental health problems in young females.

Going into the discussion, I had no intention of purchasing the book. But after listening to Sales talk about her findings and some of the topics covered in her book, I was so mind blown and I realized there was no way I could leave without purchasing a copy of American Girls ($40 CAD).

imageThe discussion left my head spinning, and left me feeling all types of ways. Primarily, I began to feel so sad for all the young teenage girls growing up now, who have to deal with all sorts of added pressure (as if growing up in general isn’t hard enough on its own). The discussion also inspired me to get to work, and try and figure out how on earth we can work towards correcting these trends.

I’m only two chapters into the book so far, and I’m already in love. I don’t want to give too much away, plus, technically I can’t really do that because I’m not finished the book yet. I am confident that this book is definitely what I need to kick my habit of not finishing books, because this book has become my new favourite accessory. I carry it around with me everywhere, and I kind of feel like one of those annoyingly proud parents who never misses a chance to bring up their kid or show you their kids most recent pictures. I never miss a chance to bring up this book or show people I’m reading it, because I truly feel like EVERYONE needs to read this.

imageSeeing as this book is so closely tied to everything my blog stands for, there are going to be tons of future posts where I delve deeper into the research and important topics this book explores. To learn more about Nancy Jo Sales you can head over to her website. I also suggest checking out this great interview on American Girls that she did with Teen VogueDon’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already, to be sure you don’t miss upcoming posts related to these topics!

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