Living la vida social media - discover 20 brilliant books about how we live through social media and its effects (the good, the bad, the ugly and the unexpected)

Whether you’re a confirmed addict, casual user, reluctant punter, or passionate opponent, there really is little escape from the clutches of social media. From personal conversations between friends and colleagues, to debates on TV and online (where else?!), there’s no getting away from hearing about the pros and cons of “livin’ la vida social media” (acknowledgments and apologies to Ricky Martin).

Given its pervasiveness, it will come as no surprise that a whole lot of writers have taken up that very topic through exploring the likes of online bullying, and examining how social media is affecting our mental health, and changing our perception of ourselves and others - see Selfie for a thought-provoking account of this.

On the subject of bullying, Dawn O'Porter’s The Cows tells a perceptive, funny story of feminism in the age of social media, with some female characters lambasting each other online for their motherhood choices (though friendship beams through the bovine bullying). On a related subject, the author’s second novel, So Lucky, reveals the “fake news” chasm between people’s filtered online lives and reality.

Meanwhile, Ben Elton's Identity Crisis looks at online outrage, and Troll (a very different kind of thriller) sees online bullying turn to real-life terror for an investigative journalist. More page-turning chills are to be had in Perfect Ten, a psychological thriller in which a wronged woman exacts revenge on her controlling, serial-philandering ex through social media.

Mention must be made of Dave Eggers’ The Circle for its addictive, funny, satirical portrayal of the world's most powerful internet company, while I Still Dream takes an absorbing, haunting look at the ethics of technology - what happens when the personal information held by tech companies is no longer private? What happens when everyone can access all your secrets? 

But it’s not all doom and gloom - a number of authors have written about the (sometimes farcical) joys (and pitfalls) of meeting your perfect match online, among them Uzma Jalaluddin, author of Hana Khan Carries On.

If you’re looking for great non-fiction on this subject, Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror is brilliantly incisive, and engaging with it. Matt Haig’s bestselling Notes on a Nervous Planet also covers how the modern world might be messing with our minds, while Jaron Lanier’s Ten Arguments for-Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now might make you re-think how you engage with social media, even if you don’t delete your accounts (its author is a Silicon Valley scientist who here reveals the in-built “toxic effects” of social media).

Read on to discover a diverse collection of 20 books about living in the age of age social media (if you can bear to drag yourself away from refreshing your Twitter feed, that is).

The Circle

The Circle

Author: Dave Eggers Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/04/2014

Fast, thrilling, compulsively addictive - The Circle is Dave Eggers' timely novel about our obsession with the internet. When Mae is hired to work for the Circle, the world's most powerful internet company, she feels she's been given the opportunity of a lifetime. Run out of a sprawling California campus, the Circle links users' personal emails, social media, and finances with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of transparency. Mae can't believe her great fortune to work for them - even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public... Tremendous. Inventive, big hearted and very funny. Prepare to be addicted . (Daily Mail). Prescient, important and enjoyable ...a deft modern synthesis of Swiftian wit with Orwellian prognostication . (Guardian). A gripping and highly unsettling read . (Sunday Times). Dave Eggers is the founder and editor of McSweeney's, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco. He is the author of seven previous books, including A Hologram for the King (finalist for the National Book Award 2012), Zeitoun (winner of the American Book Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize) and What is the What, which was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award and won France's Prix Medicis.   When Mae is hired to work for the Circle, the world's most powerful internet company, she feels she's been given the opportunity of a lifetime. Run out of a sprawling California campus, the Circle links users' personal emails, social media, and finances with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of transparency. Mae can't believe her great fortune to work for them - even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public... Tremendous. Inventive, big hearted and very funny. Prepare to be addicted . (Daily Mail). Prescient, important and enjoyable ...a deft modern synthesis of Swiftian wit with Orwellian prognostication . (Guardian). A gripping and highly unsettling read . (Sunday Times). Dave Eggers is the founder and editor of McSweeney's, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco. He is the author of seven previous books, including A Hologram for the King (finalist for the National Book Award 2012), Zeitoun (winner of the American Book Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize) and What is the What, which was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award and won France's Prix Medicis.

eBooks of the Month
Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now

Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now

Author: Jaron Lanier Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/08/2019

Social media is supposed to bring us together - but it is tearing us apart. The evidence suggests that social media is making us sadder, angrier, less empathetic, more fearful, more isolated and more tribal. Jaron Lanier is the world-famous Silicon Valley scientist-pioneer who first alerted us to the dangers of social media. In this witty and urgent manifesto he explains why its toxic effects are at the heart of its design, and, in ten simple arguments, why liberating yourself from its hold will transform your life and the world for the better. WITH A NEW AFTERWORD BY THE AUTHOR

Selfie How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What it's Doing to Us

Selfie How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What it's Doing to Us

Author: Will Storr Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/06/2017

People are suffering under the torture of this impossible fantasy. Unprecedented social pressure is leading to increases in depression and suicide. Where does this ideal come from? Why is it so powerful? Is there any way to break its spell? To answer these questions, Selfie takes us from the shores of Ancient Greece, through the Christian Middle Ages, to the self-esteem evangelists of 1980s California, the rise of narcissism and the selfie generation, and right up to the era of hyper-individualistic neoliberalism in which we live now. It tells the extraordinary story of the person we all know so intimately - our self.

eBooks of the Month
I Still Dream

I Still Dream

Author: James Smythe Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/04/2018

What happens when all the personal information held by tech companies is no longer private? What happens when this code of ethics is broken? When everyone in your world - in the world – can know all your secrets? This thoroughly thought-provoking novel addresses such questions - and more - as it explores the all-encompassing impact of recent, emerging and conjectured future technology through a haunting and powerfully personal account of one woman’s life. It’s 1997 and, at the tender age of 17, Laura Bow has created a basic artificial intelligence, which she names Organon after a Kate Bush lyric. Organon begins life as Laura’s imaginary friend. This creation is her outlet, a vent, a means of dealing with the loss of her father who vanished when she was seven. As Laura grows older and gains more experiences and memories, for a time working at the tech company her father founded and sold shortly before he disappeared, so Organon grows with her. Much like a skilled human personal assistant, it informs and supports Laura through her life, managing what she needs to be aware of, filtering out the superfluous, and anticipating her needs. But, as new technologies are developed and companies create intelligences with far less morality programmed into them than Organon, millions of personal and political secrets are unleashed and the world is sent reeling to the brink of breakdown. Shifting forward in decades from 1997, the cleverly-spun narrative spans Laura’s entire life, from the early years of dial-up Internet, to a speculative future that serves as something of a wake-up call. Taking in artificial intelligence, human intelligence, love, loss, and meaningful memories, this novel might make you reflect on how much time you spend online, and what you do and disclose there. Above all, this is an absorbing story about humanity, making moral choices and living your best life with love and ethics.

eBooks of the Month
The Cows

The Cows

Author: Dawn O'Porter Format: Paperback Release Date: 22/03/2018

April 2018 Debut of the Month Oh my word, this is an eyebrow raising, mouth openingly good read. A contemporary tale about three women, muddling and battling their way through this world as best they can. Emotional growing pains can occur at any age, life doesn't run smoothly, and these three women hold out the hand of friendship to all of us. We see and feel deeply hidden thoughts, witness shockingly embarrassing moments, and I found myself wincing at their pain, snorting with laughter, and cheering them on. Dawn O’Porter has written a stonkingly good read, I stayed up well past my bedtime into the early hours in order to finish it in one sitting. My feelings went into free fall and occasionally tied themselves up in knots as I read. ‘The Cows’ slams with impact, slaps adversity in the face, and offers supportive understanding in our modern world. Highly recommended! 

eBooks of the Month
So Lucky

So Lucky

Author: Dawn O'Porter Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/10/2019

IS ANYONE'S LIFE . . . Beth shows that women really can have it all. Ruby lives life by her own rules. And then there's Lauren, living the dream. AS PERFECT AS IT LOOKS? Beth hasn't had sex in a year. Ruby feels like she's failing. Lauren's happiness is fake news. And it just takes one shocking event to make the truth come tumbling out... The bold and brilliant new novel from Dawn O'Porter, the bestselling author of The Cows.

Identity Crisis

Identity Crisis

Author: Ben Elton Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/08/2019

Why are we all so hostile? So quick to take offence? Truly we are living in the age of outrage. A series of apparently random murders draws amiable, old-school Detective Mick Matlock into a world of sex, politics, reality TV and a bewildering kaleidoscope of opposing identity groups. Lost in a blizzard of hashtags, his already complex investigation is further impeded by the fact that he simply doesn't 'get' a single thing about anything anymore. Meanwhile, each day another public figure confesses to having 'misspoken' and prostrates themselves before the judgement of Twitter. Begging for forgiveness, assuring the public "that is not who I am". But if nobody is who they are anymore - then who the f##k are we? Ben Elton returns with a blistering satire of the world as it fractures around us. Get ready for a roller-coaster thriller, where nothing - and no one - is off limits.

Troll

Troll

Author: D. B. Thorne Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/06/2017

A macabre miss-your-tube-stop thriller in which online trolling turns into real-life terror for a young investigative journalist. By day, Sophie works for a celebrity scandal magazine. By night she’s a lifestyle blogger with a dedicated following, including an abusive troll. She goes missing after working on a potentially explosive exposure of a major TV star. While the police have all but given up on the case, her father, Fortune, a banker now based in Dubai, makes it his mission to uncover the truth (he refuses to believe the accusations that have been made about her). At the same time, two sets of large and seemingly random amounts of money vanish from the bank Fortune works for. He decodes the numbers, does more digging, and becomes entrapped in a web of revenge-driven horrors that seem set to destroy both their lives.Driven by an excruciating sense of paranoia, and twist after twist after twist, this finely-plotted page-turner will keep you reading well into the wee hours. ~ Joanne Owen

eBooks of the Month
Perfect Ten

Perfect Ten

Author: Jacqueline Ward Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/04/2019

An explosive debut thriller about one woman's search for revenge - and the dangerous chain of events she sets in motion... 'Hugely engrossing - a dark delight.' Catherine Ryan Howard Caroline Atkinson is powerless and angry. She has lost more than most - her marriage, her reputation, even her children. Then one day, she receives an unusual delivery: lost luggage belonging to the very man who is responsible, her estranged husband Jack. In a leather holdall, Caroline unearths a dark secret, one that finally confirms her worst suspicions. Jack has kept a detailed diary of all his affairs; every name, every meeting, every lie is recorded. He even marks the women out of ten. Caroline decides it's time to even the score. She will make this man pay, even if it means risking everything...

eBooks of the Month
Influence

Influence

Author: Sara Shepard, Lilia Buckingham Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/01/2021

Co-written by YA author Sara Shepard and 16-year-old Instagram celebrity and actress Lilia Buckingham, Influence is at once blisteringly entertaining and grippingly gritty - think guilty pleasure gossip site meets down and dirty exposé of the unfiltered underside of social influencer life.    With an ultra-twisty plot that’s sure to keep readers on their toes, the story opens with rising social star Delilah moving to LA. Thanks to the video that propelled her to fame as “Puppy Girl”, she’s set to hit the bigtime, especially when glamourous, super-famous Jasmine befriends her, though both young women want more from life. Delilah aspires to be known for animal activism, diabetes awareness and anti-bullying messages rather than cute canine content, while Jasmine longs to be free from the constraints of her tightly-controlled brand image, not least so she can live out her true sexuality. Then there’s outwardly cheery Fiona, famed for her fashion and beauty YouTube channel, but inwardly weighed down by OCD and The Voice in her head that tells her she’s worthless. At the top of the tree is Kardashian-esque famous Scarlet. She and handsome Jack, a mega YouTube prankster star, are worshipped as “Jacklet”, with countless crazily devoted fans following their every move, as Delilah experiences first-hand when she and Jack strike up a bond, and it’s not long before a tsunami of duplicity and devastation explodes.   Through the lives of the four female influencers we see bitchy backstabbing, the pressures of brand ambassadorship, the hollowness of consumer culture and the ruthlessness of fervent fans. Ultimately, though, when this thrilling rollercoaster ride winds up, the book chimes a message of authenticity. In Jasmine’s words, “Embrace who you are, not who the internet wants you to be.”

Making Sense

Making Sense

Author: Martin Stanton Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/11/2019

“Curiouser and curiouser”, as Alice remarked during her Wonderland sojourn, a description that might also be applied to this genre-melding book. It’s a creative collision of genre and style (fiction, travel writing, self-help thinking and script), steeped in R.D. Laing’s theories, and underpinned by the view that life cannot be understood or explained in a linear fashion. It opens by drawing an analogy between a rollercoaster ride and “the way we use technology to make sense of the open-endedness, instability, and unpredictability of our life”. The author seeks to “provide whatever helps us make sense on every section of the ride,” doing what he can “to provoke us to (re)think and (re)locate exactly where we stand when faced with such uncontrollable rollercoaster feelings.” Referencing art, theatre, history and poetry, and (for one example) describing how physical interactions with nature intersect with digital counterparts (such as checking Trip Advisor and maps), this passionately descriptive, personal work organically leaps, jolts and careers in a manner somewhat reminiscent of a surrealist manifesto. There’s a strong thread on the dissonance between one’s real and constructed digital self: “All my waking hours, I wander around the Internet. I am constantly online on every social network. I never reveal a social status, and I never tick a ‘like’ box, unless someone says something flattering about me...My photos are always carefully posed.” And yet, “I am totally terrified. I do not know who I am behind this carefully lacquered artifice.” Like the human mind and the modern world, this book has its own curious logic and will be an exhilarating experience for readers interested in psychoanalysis, especially those seeking insight into navigating the jungle of contemporary communications.

Trick Mirror

Trick Mirror

Author: Jia Tolentino Format: Paperback Release Date: 23/07/2020

What happens to our behaviour when we live most of our lives online? What does it mean to 'always be optimising'? And what is it about scams and the millennial generation? Offering nuanced and witty reflections on feminism, reality TV, the internet, drugs, identity and more, Trick Mirror is a multifaceted, thought-provoking and entertaining response to our zeitgeist - a must-read for anyone interested in the way we live and think today.

Taipei

Taipei

Author: Tao Lin Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/07/2013

At some point, maybe twenty minutes after he'd begun refreshing Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Gmail in a continuous cycle - with an ongoing, affectless, humorless realisation that his day 'was over' - he noticed with confusion, having thought it was early morning, that it was 4:46PM Taipei is an ode - or lament - to the way we live now. Following Paul from New York, where he comically navigates Manhattan's art and literary scenes, to Taipei, Taiwan, where he confronts his family's roots, we see one relationship fail, while another is born on the internet and blooms into an unexpected wedding in Las Vegas. From one of this generation's most talked-about and enigmatic writers comes a deeply personal and uncompromising novel about memory, love, and what it means to be alive.

Being Miss Nobody

Being Miss Nobody

Author: Tamsin Winter Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/06/2017

... I am Miss Nobody. Rosalind hates her new secondary school. She's the weird girl who doesn't talk. The Mute-ant. And it's easy to pick on someone who can't fight back. So Rosalind starts a blog - Miss Nobody; a place to speak up, a place where she has a voice. But there's a problem... Is Miss Nobody becoming a bully herself?

The Other Side of Lost

The Other Side of Lost

Author: Jessi Kirby Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/10/2018

Girl Online meets Wild in this emotionally charged story of girl who takes to the wilderness to rediscover herself and escape the superficial persona she created on social media. Mari Turner's life is perfect. That is, at least, to her thousands of followers who have helped her become an internet starlet. But when she breaks down and posts a video confessing she's been living a lie-that she isn't the happy, in love, inspirational online personality she's been trying so hard to portray-it goes viral and she receives a major backlash. To get away from it all, she makes an impulsive decision: to hike the entire John Muir Trail. Mari and her late cousin Bri were supposed to do it together, to celebrate their shared eighteenth birthday. But that was before Mari got so wrapped up in her online world that she shut anyone out who questioned its worth-like Bri. With Bri's boots and trail diary, a heart full of regret, and a group of strangers that she meets along the way, Mari tries to navigate the difficult terrain of the hike. But the true challenge lies within, as she searches for the way back from to the girl she fears may be too lost to find: herself.

Hana Khan Carries on

Hana Khan Carries on

Author: Uzma Jalaluddin Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/06/2021

Wearing its warm heart and uplifting messages on its sleeve, Uzma Jalaluddin’s Hana Khan Carries On is a highly readable romance about staying true to your principles - even when that means risking your future. Riffing on You’ve Got Mail, and exuding the same feel-good vibe of forging a positive path through hardship as the author’s debut, Ayesha at Last, this is a cute and charismatic read with a powerful portrayal of a community rallying round to stand up to racists. Twenty-four-year-old Hana Khan is a Toronto-born, South Asian Muslim who interns at a radio station, helps out in her family’s dwindling restaurant on the Golden Crescent and hosts a podcast “to ask questions, without worrying who might be listening and judging”. Through her podcast Hana strikes up an adorable anonymous friendship with one of her listeners, to whom she turns for advice about her worries, particularity those around her family’s restaurant when a flashy competitor rocks up and threatens to put them out of business. While Hana’s family is at the heart of her life, she’s chosen to follow her own path, not unlike her charismatic aunt, “a woman ahead of her time” who “hadn’t been afraid to make bold decisions and carry them out.” Evoking her aunt’s spirit comes to the fore when Hana’s put in an impossible situation at her radio station - an exciting opportunity to work on a show with a fellow intern sours when they’re pushed into “perpetuating harmful stereotypes about Brown people and Muslims”. To handle this, Hana must heed her aunt’s advice: “Find your principles and see your story through to the end, no matter what.” Alongside worries about work and the restaurant, Hana is attacked by racists before a baseball game, and then comes a hate-fuelled attack on the Golden Crescent. Throughout, the sense of unity and generosity in her community is a joy - it serves as such a wonderful support network. Hana is persistent, tenacious and, as the title states, “carries on” to forge a bright future - on her own terms, according to her principles, with an unexpected someone at her side. Fun and thought-provoking, this serves up a sweet slice of romance with a side of real-life grit.

Books of the Month
Notes on a Nervous Planet

Notes on a Nervous Planet

Author: Matt Haig Format: Ebook Release Date: 05/07/2018

The world is messing with our minds. Rates of stress and anxiety are rising. A fast, nervous planet is creating fast and nervous lives. We are more connected yet feel more alone. And we are encouraged to worry about everything from world politics to our body mass index.  How can we stay sane on a planet that makes us mad?  How do we stay human in a technological world?  How do we feel happy when we are encouraged to be anxious? After experiencing years of anxiety and panic attacks, these questions became urgent matters of life and death for Matt Haig. And he began to look for the link between what he felt and the world around him.  Notes on a Nervous Planet is a personal and vital look at how to feel happy, human and whole in the 21st century. 

eBooks of the Month
All of This Is True

All of This Is True

Author: Lygia Day Penaflor Format: Paperback Release Date: 31/05/2018

June 2018 Debut of the Month Lygia Day Peñaflor’s UK debut is a study in obsession and revenge, betrayal and forgiveness. It is full of timely talking points about the culture of celebrity and whether a person can ever change or be forgiven following a terrible deed. Lovereading Comment to follow.

eBooks of the Month
The Good Girl

The Good Girl

Author: Fiona Neill Format: Paperback Release Date: 16/07/2015

The basis of this novel is a porn video that goes viral and the story behind those involved and those affected, told partly by the 17-year old girl of the film and partly in the third person by those who surround her. It is pretty raw stuff with the teenage characters behaving as teenagers do amongst their peers, which may be shocking to some readers. A number of the adults don’t behave a lot better either! There are many plots and sidelines within the book but the main theme, or moral if you like, is that nothing is secret in today’s world. If you commit something to your mobile or your computer it can be there for any interested party to find. This is an extraordinary book which teenagers will identify with and parents should read to better understand their hormonal children. ~ Sarah Broadhurst

eBooks of the Month
Tweet Cute

Tweet Cute

Author: Emma Lord Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/01/2020

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming - mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger's massive Twitter account. Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper's side. When he isn't trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin's shadow, he's busy working in his family's deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma's iconic grilled cheese recipe, he'll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time. All's fair in love and cheese - that is, until Pepper and Jack's spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they're publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they're also falling for each other in real life - on an anonymous chat app Jack built. As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate - people on the internet are shipping them?? - their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can't ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

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