"American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers" by Nancy Jo Sales; Alfred A. Knopf (416 pages, $26.95)
"Do you have a finsta?" I asked my daughter, Jane, 15.
"How do you know about finstas?" Jane replied, shocked.
I showed her Nancy Jo Sales' new book, "American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers." She snatched it and started reading immediately.
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Sales, an award-winning journalist and author of "The Bling Ring," spent 2.5 years traveling from coast to coast, interviewing girls age 13 to 19. She wanted to find out what the No. 1 users of social media are doing on their phones 24/7 and explore the effect it is having "on the way they think and act, as well as on how they make friends, the way they date, and their introduction to the world of sex."
She digs into every aspect of girls' online lives, revealing myriad disturbing details and introducing a lexicon including "thot" (slut), "turntup" (drunk or high), "duckface" (the pooched-lip expression popular in selfies), "finsta" (a fake Instagram account set up under an alias) and many others unprintable in this newspaper. I would have read it for the vocabulary alone.
Jane knew every term I'd never heard of, every phenomenon and celebrity, from "sink shots" (a type of selfie popularized by Kim Kardashian) to beauty gurus Bethany Mota, Michele Phan and Amanda Steele.
Perhaps the most problematic effect of social media is the fierce emphasis on physical appearance. "For many girls, the pressure to be considered 'hot' is felt on a nearly continual basis online," writes Sales.
"The new word is 'goals,'" Sophia, 13, of Montclair, N.J., tells the author. "You find a really pretty girl on Instagram and you're like 'Goals'" -- meaning your goal is to have hair, eyebrows and lips like her.
"No one cares about being smart anymore. If you're beautiful, everyone will love you." Sophia's mother is an artist, her father is an executive, she is smart and sophisticated -- none of that makes a difference.
Because of "goals," photo-editing apps are as common as Clearasil. More alarmingly, Sales reports that in 2013, 220,000 cosmetic procedures were performed on patients age 13 to 19, partly due to the desire to look better in selfies.
Many topics are explored through interviews and exhaustive research, among them sexting, cyberbullying, porn, feminism, LGBTQ teens and more.
.If you have a teenage daughter, read "American Girls." Have her read it, too.