Young adult authors who are successful in communicating with young adults both through their novels and social media outlets do so because they “trust in the competence of youth” (Allison).
There is a reason that the name John Green has appeared under success stories for Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, and Facebook, while maintaining a traditional blog, instagram page, and trying his hand at Snapchat and Goodreads. Green’s secret is the genuine personality that manages to exude from each social media platform. Users don’t sense that he is trying to connect with them. He uses social media to promote his personal interests, social causes, other fandoms, and the writing of other authors. In expressing his excitement in these topics, and in his own books, young adults feel that they can connect with a friend. “Green doesn’t even really make a delineation between his novels and his social media output, which makes them seem all the more natural” (Grose). He does not restrict himself from topics, always trusting that youth are capable of the discussion (Allison).
“I don’t clock in and out of Tumblr or Twitter; I see them as part of my life. I like talking about things I care about with people I care about” (Grose).
– John Green
With 6 books, over 2 million followers on his official Twitter, and a movie , John Green is a well established voice of and for young adults. He now holds a powerful position: He is the voice of young adults through his novels, and also the leader of multiple YA communities. Just as young adults read his books for inspiration, comfort, and a sense of belonging and identity, these social media outlets represent where the young adults are, and where the conversations are taking place. YA authors who use these outlets to personally communicate with readership, are both instigators and moderators of these interactions. They occasionally guide these young adults with helpful life advice, book suggestions, and encouragement for following their dreams. John Green has used his online presence to comment on health, relationships, school, politics, and promotes the need for a social conscience. For example, he encourages his YouTube following to participate in his YouTube project, “Project for Awesome” that raises money for his charity “Foundation to Decrease World Suck”. He has also been known to directly answer and discuss questions relationship concerns such as, “Why hasn’t my boyfriend kissed me?” (Grose). While his answer are humourous and sensitive, this raises some questions:
Should authors like John Green, who offer life and relationship advice, be more reserved in their conversations with young adults, as young adults may blindly follow his beliefs and advice due to being fans of his books?
Are there drawbacks to the personal aspects of social media, especially in terms of a large, unreserved young adult fanbase?
Libraries and Social Media
Libraries also deal with these questions of neutrality as they have a responsibility to be neutral towards patrons, including young adults. Libraries are a place where young adults come for a place to be other than work, school, or home. They come to find information for both school and more personal reasons, and librarians should provide that information while remaining neutral on the specific topics.
However, as charities such as Lumos, Project for Awesome, and Rowell’s efforts to raise money for Philippine typhoon victims show, YA authors have the ability to encourage young adult engagement in social issues, and do so with great success. Should libraries tap into this opportunity to encourage teen engagement in political, environmental, and social issues? Is it possible to do so while remaining neutral on the topics?
Fortunately, librarians ARE taking advantage of social media to promote their libraries, reading, and special events. Just as information is going digital, so are many of the ways librarians are reaching out to patrons, “”Library locations aren’t going anywhere–so how do we expand?” Graybill asks. “Isn’t an online community just as viable as a library branch?”” (Dankowski). It can be used to reach out to the local community, and can foster an identity of a welcoming space for the public. If used correctly, social media can promote brand awareness, increase library use, and create a sense of community (Dankowski).
Libraries should be careful in how they reach out to young adults. The American Library Association and the International Federation of Library Association and Institutions (IFLA) both encourage librarians to think carefully about how to engage young adults through social media. IFLA in particular seems to understand that there is not one correct way to engage young adults. In their introduction to social media for librarian’s document it warns, “This document does not dictate the best way to attract teens to your library (there is none!)” (Chew). If librarians utilize the 5 measures that successful authors use – Humour, Sincerity, Excitement, Frequency, and Appearance – (see Introduction) regardless of their chosen social media outlets, then they can successfully remain neutral while engaging and supporting a young adult community in their library, and young adult reading in general!
Can you think of any further criteria that librarians should keep in mind when developing programming, promotional material, or book displays directed towards young adults?