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).