Social Media in YA Books

Elise Watson is studying on the Publishing MA course at University College London

In 2014 Facebook had more than a billion users and Twitter had more than 500 million. So if young people are on Facebook and Twitter all the time, do Young Adult authors need to reference social media in their books to stay relevant?

I don’t think so. If anything, social media could be a huge disruption from the story and any overall message. Constant references to characters’ social media accounts can become boring and distracting, and name-dropping social media platforms deviates from characters’ growth and plot development. This can result in a stilted and broken narrative.

Lobsters by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison (Chicken House), shortlisted for the YA Book Prize, mentions Facebook a few times to indicate the story is set in the present day, but any more than that and it would have overshadowed the coming-of-age rituals that all teens go through, with or without social media. While the YA audience has a huge online presence, their lives do not necessarily revolve around social media. So why should their books?

Admittedly, some books should talk about social media. Everything about Zoe Sugg’s Girl Online (Penguin) revolves around social media: the author is a vlogger and the plot is focused on a teenager’s online presence. It works because it brings social media to the forefront of the story. It is an essential plot device and therefore is heavily relied on. However, if social media is going to play an integral role in the novel then its presence needs to be justified. Referencing social media just as a social indicator, and with no plot implications, can be dangerous. It makes the narrative voice seem unauthentic and creates unnecessary content.